Comair collapse: Beyond rescue

Comair, the airline that flew in British Airways colours in southern Africa will never fly again in Africa. The signs that the airline was at the closing stages of operations were imminent. They were pressed down by regulatory and financial issues.

Top members of the airline for two years tried to save the carrier by seeking to secure funding but they were unable to do so-had no option to lodge the application.

It is an extremely sad day for the company, its employees, its customers, and South African aviation.

 

Comair

The collapse has taken around 40 percent out of South Africa’s aviation capacity.

Comair had a Southern African network connecting with BA services, flying between Johannesburg and neighbouring countries including Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

It also operated South Africa’s first budget airline, Kulula, whose name means “It’s easy”, primarily serving Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.

Richard Ferguson, a member of the airline added: “With its two airline brands – British Airways (operated by Comair) and Kulula.com – market share, modern aircraft fleet, experienced employees, sales and distribution channels, Comair was an inherently viable business.”

The carrier was hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and in particular, the severe travel restrictions applied to South Africa by the UK and other countries.

Comair filed for “Business Rescue” – a bankruptcy protection status similar to “Chapter 11” in the US – in May 2020, and continued to operate during a “focused restructuring of the company”.

But its flights were suspended by the South African Civil Aviation Authority for some days in March 2022 over safety concerns, and it stopped flying completely on May 31.

While Comair Limited was a separate commercial entity from British Airways, Sean Doyle, chief executive and chairman of BA, was a non-executive director.

BA’s links from London Heathrow to Johannesburg and Cape Town are unaffected.

A British Airways spokesperson said: “We’re contacting customers due to fly with Comair to offer them rebook and refund options, including flights on other carriers where possible.

“British Airways services between London and South Africa continue to operate as normal and we’ll continue to provide support and assistance to our franchise partner and their colleagues at this difficult time.”

South African Airways, the heavily loss-making rival of Comair, continues to be propped up by the government.

Wole Shadare