South African Airways reinstated flights to seven international destinations including London on Sunday following strike action.

Other regional services in African were also resumed today but the domestic network within South Africa faces cancellations and disruption until Wednesday.

The walkout by unions which started on Friday followed the release of plans to restructure the loss-making carrier involving 944 staff being cut from a total workforce of 5,149 worldwide.

The airline’s acting CEO hit out at unions for questioning its safety record and threatened legal action.

Zuks Ramasia said: “SAA calls on the South African Cabin Crew Association and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to retract the untruthful and unfounded allegations that flying the national carrier is in any way unsafe.

“SAA has a proven safety record and we have an unwavering commitment to safety. The safety and security of passengers and crew is the highest single priority to SAA. We do not compromise on that.

“We remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and security on all our flights.”

She added: “We call on NUMSA and SACCA to retract these untrue and unfounded allegations with immediate effect. If they fail to do so, we will consider taking legal action.

“We would never put our long established reputation at risk. The safety of our customers is always our prime responsibility.”

Announcing the cuts last week, Ramasia said: “SAA’s balance sheet has historically been weak and remains so despite recent substantial capital injections from the government.

“Our continued losses and reliance on government guarantees to borrow money from lenders, have increased the interest costs which impacts the operating cost of the business.

“We urgently need to address ongoing lossmaking position that has subsisted over the past years. That is why we are undergoing a restructuring process that seeks to ensure effective implementation of the accelerated long term turnaround strategy amidst the present prevailing operational challenges.”

Acting human resources general manager Martin Kemp said on Friday: “SAA has advised that the airline cannot afford to pay any increases, however, it has offered the unions a 5.9% salary increase when funds are available.

“SAA has unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the unions from embarking on industrial action by providing firm commitment dates to its offer. The unions have rejected the offer and embarked on industrial action.

“This is a critical time for the airline, and we will not give up on saving jobs and securing a future for the airline. It will not happen on our watch that SAA’s proud history of 85 years ends.

“Our efforts are focused on finding solutions that accommodate the employee demands, safeguard the business and return operations to normal. We are exploring all possible avenues.”