Low-cost carrier 1time Airline is due to receive a lifeline when its provisional liquidators Tshwane Trust apply to the master of the high court in Pretoria for the postponement of Tuesday’s deadline that could have seen the company being placed into final liquidation.
"I have spoken with our attorneys and we are making an application for a postponement of the return date to... February," 1time provisional liquidator Aviwe Ndyamara said on Monday. "This will keep the licences intact while we are still in negotiations with Fastjet."
Last week, UK-listed Lonrho’s low-cost airline Fastjet said it was in negotiations to buy 1time for a "nominal" fee. The airline would then be used as the vehicle for Fastjet’s plans to create an operational base in South Africa as it sought to become a low-cost pan-African carrier.
Fastjet said it wanted to take advantage of the Christmas season travel demand, which had spiked after 1time was forced to cease operations. But CEO Ed Winter admitted the timelines for reaching such an outcome were tight.
1time owes its creditors more than R450-million and has been in discussions with them since March to find an acceptable repayment model. In August, after failing to come to an agreement with creditors, the airline’s board was forced to place 1time Holdings - which includes Jetworx, a maintenance firm, and 1time Airline - under business rescue to protect it from liquidation.
Two months later, the board threw in the towel and filed for liquidation after various turnaround strategies presented to creditors failed to win their support.
The largest creditor is the Airports Company South Africa, which is owed about R150-million.
Mr Ndyamara said the talks with Fastjet were proceeding as expected. "We are confident we will get some sort of resolution soon."
1time is the second airline in the past year that has been forced to stop operations after Durban-based Velvet Sky collapsed in March, barely a year after launching its service. A combination of large increases in airport taxes and navigation services, record high prices of fuel and weak pricing ability because of oversupply and weak demand, have caused financial difficulty across the aviation sector.