Airlines grounded in 2022: Is African aviation experiencing a new crisis?

Bob Adams/

Global travel recovery is well underway and continues to gain momentum, with air travel demand increasing on a month-on-month basis.  

An IATA media briefing report published in May 2022 highlighted the progress Africa has made in restoring 99% of domestic air connectivity, when compared to May 2019 levels. 

While regional air connectivity across the continent was lagging at 77%, connectivity to neighboring regions had, in some cases, surpassed former 2019 highs, the report noted. Air connectivity to Europe, North America and the Middle East stood at 96%, 102% and 106% respectively. 

However, despite the renewed growth of air travel, Africa’s aviation industry has lost some capacity in 2022, as airlines across the continent are grounded over regulatory, financial and operational issues. 

AeroTime takes a look at five African airlines grounded this year.  

Tchadia Airlines: Chad, North-Central Africa 

Tchadia Airlines, the national airline of Chad, is one of the more recent Africa airlines to halt its operations due to financial issues.  

The airline was placed into liquidation in August 2022 after three years of successive annual losses in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Its stockholders held a meeting in July 2022 to discuss the airline’s future. However, they found a lack of prospects for the carrier’s financial recovery. 

According to the carrier’s stakeholders, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be the final blow for the airline. Chad was left without a national carrier as a result.  

Based out of N’Djamena International Airport, Tchadia Airlines was the result of a partnership between the Government of Chad (with a 51% stake) and Ethiopian Airlines (with a 49% stake).   

The airline launched operations in October 2018, with a fleet of two Bombardier Dash Q400, and operated domestic and regional routes to destinations in Chad, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Sudan.   

Based at Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, Dana Airlines is a privately owned domestic airline in Nigeria. The airline launched its flight operations on November 10, 2008, and operated routes to destinations such as Abuja, Port Harcourt and Uyo.   

However, the airline was grounded by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on July 21, 2022, with the regulator citing the airline’s financial difficulties.  

In a statement released on Twitter, the NCAA said that it had taken the decision to suspend Dana Airlines’ Air Transport License (ATL) and Air Operator Certificate (AOC) indefinitely following the result of a financial audit carried out on the airline by the authority.  

“The decision is the outcome of a financial and economic health audit carried out on the Airline by the Authority, and the findings of an investigation conducted on the Airline’s flight operations recently, which revealed that Dana Airlines is no longer in a position to meet its financial obligations and to conduct safe flight operations,” the NCAA said in the statement, which was signed by Director General Captain, Musa 

On July 20, 2022, Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria (ACN), known as Aero Contractors, announced the temporary suspension of its scheduled passenger service operations. 

The Lagos-based airline attributed the suspension to ongoing fleet maintenance. It also noted challenges facing the industry which have impacted “major components of airlines operations” and the operating environment within Nigeria. 

“This decision was carefully considered and taken due to the fact that most of our [aircraft] are currently undergoing maintenance, resulting in our inability to offer a seamless and efficient service to our esteemed customers,” the airline said in a statement published on Twitter 

The airline said that it expected to return its fleet to service within a “few weeks” following the announcement.  

Aero Contractors added: “The past few months have been very challenging for the aviation industry and the airline operators in particular. With the high cost of maintenance, skyrocketing fuel prices, inflation, and forex scarcity resulting in high foreign exchange rates.” 

In early August 2022, the Air Services Licensing Council, a regulatory body in South Africa, suspended Mango Airline’s licences for a period of two years under the council’s Air Services Licensing Act, according to a report by South African news outlet, Fin24.  

The suspension was announced in a letter, which was seen by Fin24, addressed to Mango’s business rescue practitioner, Sipho Sono. The decision was made at an inopportune time for the airline, which was close to securing an investor.  

“All I can say is that it is a very strange decision that does not consider the lack of competition in the domestic aviation market, with ticket prices gone through the roof. The decision was communicated to me late Friday, so I still need to consider it carefully and decide the next steps,” Sono told Fin24. 

Mango Airlines is a South Africa-based low-cost carrier and a subsidiary of South African Airways. The airline operated domestic routes within South Africa and one regional route to Zanzibar Kenya, before grounding its flights in April 2021 and entering business rescue in July 2021. 

Comair: South Africa, South Africa 

On May 31, 2022, South Africa-based airline Comair, which operated British Airways and flights, announced that it would be suspending its flights and halting ticket sales, having failed to secure funding to continue its operations.  

The airline faced a turbulent two-year period having entered voluntary business rescue proceedings on May 5, 2020, as a safeguard for the company and its stakeholders. Comair resumed operations in December 2021.  

Shortly after resuming operations, Comair canceled all flights after the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended the airline’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) on March 13, 2022, for an indefinite period. This was a result of the SACAA’s visit to the airline to “investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by and BA Comair”. 

In a statement dated March 12, 2022, the SACAA identified that concerns were raised after Comair experienced reports of engine failures, engine malfunction and landing gear malfunctions. After visiting Comair’s facilities to investigate and determine if Comair was following applicable Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs), the regulator’s inspection resulted in three level 1 findings, and one level 2 finding. As a result, the regulatory body imposed a precautionary suspension on Comair’s operations, and the airline was given the opportunity to rectify the issues. 

On March 16, 2022, the SACAA reinstated Comair’s AOC following a successful review of the airline’s safety management systems (SMS) and quality control management system (QA) 

Comair lodged a court application on June 9, 2022, to convert its business rescue proceedings into liquidation proceedings.   

“We did our utmost to secure the funding, but when we were unable to do so had no option to lodge the application,” business rescue practitioner Richard Ferguson said in a statement. “It is an extremely sad day for the company, its employees, its customers and South African aviation.”  

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.  

Discover more insight into African aviation, through AeroTime’s media partnership with AviaDev Africa
AviaDev Insight is the first podcast dedicated to the African aviation industry, created by Jon Howell, Founder and Managing Director of AviaDev Africa, Africa’s premier event dedicated to developing air connectivity.
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