South African airline Comair has canceled flights after the country’s civil aviation authority suspended its operating license for an indefinite amount of time.
Comair operates regional routes under the British Airways livery as part of a license agreement with British Airways and also runs a low-cost carrier, kulula.com, which it launched in 2001.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) initially suspended Comair’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) as precautionary measure on the morning of March 12, 2022. However, a day later, the SACAA said the AOC was indefinitely suspended while Comair works to address concerns raised by regulators.
The SACAA said in a statement on March 13, 2022 that it decided to suspend the AOC after visiting Comair to “investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by Kulula.com and BA Comair.”
The regulator said in its initial statement that Comair operations had experienced “engine failures, engine malfunction and landing gear malfunctions, amongst others” in the past month.
As a result, the regulator raised three Level 1 findings and one Level 2 finding. The SACAA explained that “a level 1 finding is an outcome which poses an immediate risk to safety and security, and it must be closed with immediate effect and a level 2 finding must be closed within 7 days”.
Comair said it had worked through the night to provide the documentation that the SACAA had requested.
“We have since received an acknowledgement that the information has been received, but no other formal communication has been received to date,” stated Comair chief executive Glenn Orsmond in a press release on March 13, 2022.
“This is a huge blow to our customers, employees and the flying public as it effectively takes 40% of the capacity out of the market, Orsmond continued. “The implications for the aviation sector and the country are considerable should the suspension continue for any length of time.”
The SACAA said it too has been working through the night and that it has closed one of the three Level 1 findings.
“The SACAA is fully committed to ensuring that the Operator is back in the air and has dedicated a full team to assess and review the evidence as it gets submitted,” it said.
The authority highlighted that safety was the priority.
“The commitment to safety in this case supersedes any other need and this is to ensure that South Africa maintains its safety record of having ZERO fatal airline accidents in over thirty years on South African soil”.
Comair’s fleet currently comprises 26 Boeing 737 aircraft, according to its website. The airline’s chief executive said Comair has chartered two aircraft to help stranded passengers while the suspension remains in place.