SAA to increase route capacity amidst Comair shutdown

Thiago B Trevisan/ Shutterstocke

South African Airways (SAA) announced an increase in capacity to meet demand following the suspension of flights by Comair, the South Africa-based British Airways and operator. 

SAA noted in a statement on June 2, 2022, the “unfortunate decision” made by Comair to halt its operations from May 31, 2022. 

John Lamola, South African Airways’ interim chairperson and chief executive officer said, “Having emerged from business rescue ourselves, we empathize with Comair and understand the difficulties caused by COVID and high fuel prices.” 

South African Airways said it will look to increase its frequency “where possible” and tap into its existing capacity to help alleviate the demand left by Comair’s collapse. 

“The team at SAA has been working hard to find solutions to help affected customers and is in the process of adjusting our flying programme to adding more seats between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban,” said Lamola in the statement released by SAA.  

SAA’s CEO also added that the airline is also looking at options to help customers on other routes serviced by SAA. 

Prior to its flight suspension, Comair was estimated to serve around 40% of the South African market, with a fleet of 12 Boeing 737 aircraft. 

Comair’s voluntary flight halt 

On May 31, 2022, Comair announced the suspension of its flights and the halting of ticket sales, having failed to secure funding to continue its operations. 

“We did everything we could to avoid it. Comair, the [business rescue practitioners] BRPs and the lenders are working all out to get the funding in place so that we can resume our normal flight schedule as soon as possible,” said Comair CEO, Glenn Orsmond. 

The news surrounding Comair’s flight halt follows a turbulent period set in motion by the downturn in traffic from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The operator entered into voluntary business rescue proceedings on May 5, 2020, as a safeguard for the company and its stakeholders, and resumed its operations in December 2021. 

However, on March 13, 2022, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended Comair’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for five days after a visit by the SACAA to “investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by and BA Comair.”   

During this period SAA also announced its intention to increase capacity by utilizing larger aircraft on routes such as its Durban and Cape Town flights after Comair’s grounding. 

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