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South African Airways in talks with British Airways to launch a new BA-branded franchise

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When South African airline Comair fell into liquidation in June, it seemed to be the end of the British Airways franchise operation in South Africa.

This may not be the case, however.

The CEO of South African Airways has told local media that the airline is in discussions with British Airways about restarting the franchise.

New British Airways franchise in South Africa

If you never flew Comair, it was a fascinating experience.  You were on a BA-branded aircraft (see the photo above) with crew in British Airways uniform, operating to BA service standards, flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town or similar.

As well as domestic routes in South Africa, the network also stretched further afield, including Mauritius. Sadly the airline was unable to survive the pandemic, despite an initial bailout in 2020.

Comair’s provisional liquidator has confirmed that British Airways is looking for a new South African partner.

On the face of it, restarting an obscure franchise operation would not appear a top priority for British Airways. The deal had merits, however. The franchise fees, for a start, are pure profit for the airline. IAG Loyalty benefits from the sale of Avios to the franchise.

The franchise also helps British Airways plug the many gaps in its African network, although this is arguably less important now that Royal Air Maroc and Qatar Airways are members of the oneworld alliance.

You can read more on the Fin24 website here.


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Comments (14)

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

  • AJA says:

    This is good news. I liked travelling on Comair. Was sad when I heard it was no more.

    Does this mean that we would be able to earn Avios and TP on SA domestic routes again eg JHB to DUR or CPT?

    • Rhys says:

      It doesn’t mean anything yet!

      But yes, if they agree to something, it seems likely, either under a codeshre agreement or as a new franchise partner.

  • Chris says:

    Is SAA looking to leave Star Alliance?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      This doesn’t have to be connected. Anything they operate as the BA franchise would earn Avios and tier points and would be a oneworld affiliate but SAA could remain in Star Alliance. When Comair existed they operated under two distinct brands.

      • JAXBA says:

        What’s left of SA’s route network isn’t that much bigger than MN had at it’s peak. I don’t think SA is looking to bifurcate brands here, but transform into what BA op by MN was.

        I’m sure some politicians will force the worst of all possible outcomes though…

  • Dan says:

    Isn’t SA basically doing JNB-CPT? I could see this being a good move for BA/one world. Gives them a strong presence in Africa and would complement Other carriers if SA developed into a stronger regional airline.

  • Paul says:

    I’d rather BA focused on delivering a sustainable operation at its Heathrow Base rather than focusing on a tiny market 6000 miles away.

    Just flown LHR LIN return in CE and it was simply horrible experience in both directions. 90 minutes late out of London. Chaotic service on board and flight deck announcements that were simply pouring petrol on the fire.

    The return was no better. Two checkin desks in LIN staffed by people who did not want to be there. Only fast track security worked well. Boarding was a mess with the same club desk checkin agent now managing boarding and going from nought to “I will call the police” in a dozen words, when an Italian couple had the temerity to board in group 1-3 with a group 4 boarding pass. It would have helped if the boarding announcement had been audible!

    On board the most awful cabin crew in terms of demeanour. From moment I crossed the threshold it was clear they didn’t want to be there either. The hand baggage announcements grew increasingly desperate and there was lots of stomping up and down the aisle with bags and even more harrumphing from all three of them. It was a farce, particularly when they announced that they had a large carryon that was being left in Milan as no one had claimed it. Up pops young girl who said repeatedly she had put it into the overhead bin on boarding….it was found in the aisle!!! Still it went off as she stood there in tears and crew bags were being placed into the cockpit!!

    The grumpy crew did at least know how to serve a club Europe meal in 75 minutes! but of course no names recognition or indeed interest. My wife pointed out that the middle table thing which covers the middle CE seats was broken. She said the table was unstable and she was not able to secure it. The cabin managers reply was simply ” nor can I” and she walked off.

    On arrival in LHR a 20 minute wait for a jetty and then and hour wait for bags. As we stood at belt 11 we spotted bag after bag destined for DOH, EDI, MIA, ATL, LAX going around which had clearly been offloaded into LHR in error.

    It is a shambles and Doyle need to focus on fixing the basics rather than strategising on a markey on the other side of the world.

    • apbj says:

      This describes almost every BA I’ve flight taken this year. I can count on one hand the number of flights that have not either been delayed or generated some other complaint or follow-up action or required rebooking through cancellation or all of the above. It’s exhausting.

    • Lee says:

      With you. You are very right. BA is a mess.

  • Nicky says:

    Not sure where to ask this question but as it is BA related I will ask here.

    Celebrity Cruise line booed my return flights in PE. I have an upgrade voucher from Barclays, would I be able to use this or is it only flights booked by me that can use the voucher?

  • Leonora says:

    BA franchise cost killed Comair. How will SAA afford it?

    • JAXBA says:

      Comair was profitable every year of it’s existence, right up to the pandemic. It was owed a lot of money by SAA and only got a fraction of it, it had issues with Boeing, and was competing against the subsidised SAA.

  • Arno says:

    BA must rather consider a more stable South African airline to operate the BA franchize e.g. Airlink or Safair. SAA remain a struggling airline.

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

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