South African Airways is taking the axe to its flight network as part of a financial turnaround plan.

Domestic routes covering Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth will be dropped from February 29 while Cape Town will be served on a reduced basis from the airline’s Johannesburg hub.

Routes from Johannesburg to Abidjan via Accra, Entebbe, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Luanda, Munich, Ndola and Sao Paulo will also be closed.

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The airline pledged to maintain international services between Johannesburg and Frankfurt, Heathrow, New York, Perth and Washington via Accra.

Regional services to be retained include from Johannesburg to Blantyre, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Kinshasa, Lagos, Lilongwe, Lusaka, Maputo, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls, Livingston and Windhoek.

A business rescue plan is due to be published in late February and then presented to creditors for approval.

The airline said: “Following a careful analysis of SAA’s liquidity challenges and after consultations with all relevant stakeholders, the business rescue practitioners have identified which routes will be retained to drive the restructured national carrier towards profitability.

“All customers booked on any cancelled international and regional routes will receive a full refund. Customers booked on cancelled domestic flights will be re-accommodated on services operated by Mango.

“SAA does not intend to make any further significant network changes.

“Passengers and travel agents can therefore feel confident about booking future travel with South African Airways.”

Other measures put forward by joint business rescue practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana include deploying more fuel-efficient aircraft, optimisation of organisational structures and renegotiation of key contracts with suppliers.

They said: “The initiatives we are taking now will strengthen SAA’s business.

“We believe that this should provide reassurance to our loyal customers that SAA is moving in the right direction.

“We are focused on our mandate to restore SAA’s commercial health and create an airline that South Africans will be proud of.”