March 18, 2020 / 6:26 AM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 1-South African airline SA Express suspends operations, partly due to coronavirus

(Adds detail, context)

JOHANNESBURG, March 18 (Reuters) - South African state-owned airline SA Express said it would suspend operations from Wednesday until further notice because of recent developments, including the impact of a rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.

The global aviation industry is battling to survive a plunge in demand caused by the virus, with some airlines seeking government bailouts or grounding most of their fleets.

SA Express, which flies to domestic and regional destinations, said it would accommodate customers on alternative flights and non-critical staff would go on compulsory leave.

“The airline will utilise this period to review its current network and streamline operations for improved efficiency,” it said in a statement.

SA Express entered a form of bankruptcy protection this year, after a court battle with a contractor, logistics firm Ziegler.

It is a separate business from much larger state carrier South African Airways, which is also under bankruptcy protection. (Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Clarence Fernandez)

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