Comair British AirwaysThe international airport of Durban. Kulula.com planes can be recognized in green or orange among others (Photo: DR) It

is a hard blow for British Airways

in South Africa, one of its most important markets in the world. And in any case THE most important on the African continent.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended indefinitely on Sunday 13 March the flights of the domestic airline Comair for safety reasons. The injunction was issued on Saturday 12 March. But what seemed to be only a 24-hour grounding will take longer.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority justifies this suspension on a multiplication of incidents these last weeks at Comair which points out a lack of maintenance and safety rules. SACAA has confirmed that the suspension will be maintained until its concerns have been adequately addressed by the company.

This affects all of the company’s domestic and regional flights as well as its low-cost subsidiary Kulula.com. According to Glenn Orsmond, CEO of Comair, “This is a blow to our customers, employees and the traveling public, as it effectively eliminates 40% of the capacity in the market. The implications for the aviation industry and the country are significant if the suspension continues.” As of 2019, Comair and its subsidiary Kulula had carried six million passengers

. The Comair network operated under BA franchise in 2019 (screenshot Comair 2019 annual report)

British Airways hindered

Also grafted on is the problem of British Airways. The South African carrier has been operating under franchise for the British company since 1996. Comair in fact provides flights in connection with BA flights in Johannesburg. These are mainly domestic routes – in particular from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban or Port Elizabeth. However, there are also numerous regional destinations from the South African economic metropolis. For example, to Mauritius, Harare (Zimbabwe) and Windhoek (Namibia).

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The suspension means that BA passengers will have to find alternative ways to reach Comair’s destinations. Comair is continuing its efforts with SACAA to have the suspension lifted. However, it is unable to communicate when a rapid return to normal operations is expected.

Luc Citrinot