“As a (government) shareholder representative of SA Express, I apologise to passengers who have been inconvenienced by the suspension of the company’s certificate.” She was “providing all the necessary support to management of SA Express to resolve this matter”.Department director-general Mogokare Seleke would “lead talks with the SACAA to resolve this matter”, she said.

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“SACAA views the inefficiency of the safety monitoring systems in a serious light as it poses serious safety hazards and risks to the crew, passengers, and the public at large.” Ntshanga said they would remain grounded “until such time that the SACAA’s concerns have been addressed and the airline has been granted permission to operate again”.

“SA Express has confirmed that passengers will be accommodated,” he added.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown offered an apology to stranded passengers.

Johannesburg - In a bid to prevent potential “catastrophic” incidents, the national aviation authority has stopped state airline SA Express flying, leaving angry passengers stuck at airports countrywide on Saturday.

Due to safety concerns, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on Saturday suspended the airline’s air operator certificate due to “failure to comply with the applicable civil aviation regulations”.

The decision came without notice for SA Express or passengers.

The aviation authority is a “self-funded agency of the Department of Transport, tasked with promoting and maintaining a safe, secure, and sustainable civil aviation environment”.

Spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said the certification suspension was “precautionary in the interest of safety and preventing incidents that can be catastrophic”.

“The suspension follows a series of non-compliances and the SACAA’s dissatisfaction with the operator’s safety monitoring systems, which are meant to monitor and address any safety deficiencies.

“The regulator also found the operator’s proposed corrective action plan inadequate as it does not satisfactorily address the findings raised.” SA Express chief executive Inati Ntshanga confirmed the aviation authority’s action was because it “deems our quality assurance systems to be inadequate”.

But Ntshanga said: “Since we started operations 22 years ago, we have had an impeccable safety record as safety has always been our first and foremost priority and we will never compromise our passengers, crew, the public or aircraft safety.