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British Airways’ South African franchise forced to suspend flights on safety grounds

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One of the quirks of the British Airways network is that it has a franchise business in South Africa, called Comair.

I’ve flown it a couple of times in the past. It is a little strange to board a Boeing 737 in Johannesburg in British Airways livery, with crew wearing British Airways uniforms, to fly to Cape Town or somewhere else in the region.

Here is one of their aircraft so you can see what I mean:

Comair British airways suspended

This aircraft won’t be going anywhere for a while, however.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has suspended Comair’s Air Operator Certificate. The suspension also covers Kulula.com, a low cost subsidiary under the same ownership but with no link to British Airways.

The suspension was driven by recent ‘safety incidents’ at Comair. To quote from the CAA’s press release:

“Just in the past month, Comair operations experienced occurrences ranging from engine failures, engine malfunction and landing gear malfunctions, amongst others.”

An initial 24-hour suspension, due to end yesterday, has now been extended indefinitely after the airline was not able to assuage the concerns of the regulator.

In a follow-up statement on Sunday, the regulator said:

Following the 24hour precautionary suspension of Comair PTY Ltd.’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) privileges on Saturday morning 12 March 2022, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) confirms that the AOC is now indefinitely suspended pending the Operator addressing all the findings as communicated by the Regulator on Saturday morning. [….]

Comair British Airways flights suspended

The suspension follows the visit by the SACAA to the Operator to investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by Kulula.com and BA Comair. [….]

This resulted in the Regulator raising three (3) level 1 findings, and one (1) level 2 finding. In terms of the oversight philosophy of the Regulator, 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. [….]

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.”

Comair was reborn from de facto bankruptcy during the pandemic. It is possible, although hopefully unlikely, that a lack of liquidity in the business has led to short cuts being taken over safety and maintenance.

It isn’t clear at present how long this suspension will last. If you have any Comair flights planned for the next week or so then you may be in trouble although I imagine that the issues will be addressed quickly. Reuters reported that charter flights were being used to rebook selected passengers, including those with long-haul connections.


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Comments (23)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Sterckxhof says:

    I should add that we are booked in Club on BA on avios (apart from the JNB > Maun secto). Only one of the Comair flights was available on avios.

  • Martin says:

    Only slightly related, but does anyone know when the other BA franchisee, Sun-Air might be flying again? We were looking at a trip to Billund, and an LCY flight would be more convenient than LHR.

    • conspicuous-capybara says:

      I hope so! No news on their website yet. I regret only having flown them once since my grandparents live near BLL. Better service in Economy compared to most CE trips I’ve been on, one of the best uses of Avios in my eyes. The adorable ~30-seat Dornier aircraft is icing on the cake!

  • pauline says:

    BA helped me to amend our Comair flight JNB CPT on the 20th March from 12.50 pm to an airlink flight at 12.15 am – another alternative was a 15.30 flight on SAA but this would have meant a substantial layover. I just hope 2 hours is enough to collect bags, security etc. Its also a different terminal but I understand they are in the same building. Fingers crossed – travelling is not stress free these days

    • chris says:

      If you are on time it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s not a huge airport probably a 10 minute walk and elevator ride. Back there myself on Sunday for a frustratingly Long layover as BA pushed the LHR flight back.

      JNB remains the only airport I have personally visited where bag valets were scalping as you come out of international arrivals.

      • Sterckxhof says:

        What does bag valets were scalping mean, please?

        • WaynedP says:

          Self appointed porters who pester you to let them carry your baggage for you, despite parking, car hire offices and transport links all being quickly and easily accessible.

          If you don’t agree a price up front, you risk being hussled with a demand for an exorbitant fee, or a sob story for more money even if you did agree a fee upfront.

          As is invariably the case, it’s a slew of bad apples that have ruined it for any entrepreneurs trying to earn an honest living from their labours.

          There are always plenty of armed policemen about, an ostentatious move towards whom will invariably deter any persistent scoundrels not already deterred by polite refusals for their unwanted help.

    • yorkieflyer says:

      On the same ticket?

  • Phil says:

    I have the local version of 241 (only flights on Comair services) which will expire soon. Guess I won’t be using it then!

    Wonder if I should be cheeky and ask for an extension…

  • DJM says:

    A month ago we had a 7 hour delay on Comair flight JoBerg to Cape Town and a 5 hours delay on the return, only making our connection to LHR with10 minutes to go. Now we know why.

  • Andrew Lyons says:

    In September 2019 we were due to fly Comair from Livingston Zambia to Jo’burg to connect with BA to London. The clapped out 737 had a technical issue so we were delayed a day! Needless to say getting our avios 2 for 1 in first back home was a disaster.

    If the airline dissapears it would not be a great loss!

  • Phil says:

    The suspension has been lifted. BA and Kulula flights are resuming.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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