South African Nationwide Airline has ceased operations until further notice due to financial hardships, the airline announced on Tuesday.

Nationwide chief executive Vernon Bricknell commented, Our cash-flow has become critical and as a result we have decided to voluntarily cease all flight operations until further notice.

We apologize to our loyal customers for any and all inconveniences experienced.

The carrier which services local flights as well as international routes to London and Zambia has a fleet of 17 planes. It is not immediately clear how many passengers were stranded and what will become of their unused flight tickets.

The company started facing problems in November when an engine fell off a Nationwide Boeing 737-200 taking off from Cape Town airport. The aircraft landed safely half an hour later.

The carrier was then grounded for several weeks by suspending approval of the certificates of airworthiness of its fleet. Nationwide resumed operations in December but was hammered in March and April by a 30 percent increase in the fuel price.

The closure came as news to trade unions causing concern among many regarding possible job losses.

Chief executive officer of competitor Mango, Nico Bezuidenhout, said the company would help stranded passengers with preferential fares wherever it could.