South Africa News

Comair asked to return their licence & might never fly again

Comair may never fly again, after the South African Civil Aviation Authority asked the Kulula and BA franchise parent to return the copy of its Airline Operating Certificate.

An Airline Operating Certificate (AOC) allows an airline to conduct commercial aviation business under the regulations of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

CAA spokesperson Sisa Majola confirmed that Comair’s AOC was initially suspended following the grounding. This is normal practice.

In such an instance an airline may not resume operations until there has been formal communication with the regulator and necessary oversight of its operations. However, Majola added: “Things have now progressed beyond the initial stage. The SACAA has consulted Comair and advised them to return the copy of their AOC.”

Comair’s business practitioners said to The Citizen that it expected the suspension of the AOC but declined to say whether the license was terminated or not, instead referring the journalist back to civil aviation.

Stephen Forbes, spokesperson for business rescue practitioners Shaun Collyer and Richard Ferguson, refused to be drawn to answer the question more than once.

Instead, he said: “That’s the response. The question should be put to the CAA not the BRP’s.”

The airline has been grounded since 31 May after it voluntarily suspended operations due to a lack of funding. Its management made the call to stop flights after selling thousands of tickets in a bargain basement fire sale, hours prior to its demise.

Comair’s hopes for a better tomorrow may be snookered, permanently.

Aviation analyst Guy Leitch reacted: “I and others have always held a hope, albeit a very small hope, that somebody might come and rescue Comair and turn it into a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes. But if it loses its AOC, its one last useful asset, that would presumably absolutely and unfortunately be the end of Comair.”

Leitch commended the CAA’s proactive position and added: “The other issue that needs to be seen is whether the Air Services Licensing councils will be reasonably quick to hand over the (Comair) routes, particularly to FlySafair, who, as we know, has applied for a whole bunch of international regional routes.”

Comair was first grounded for five days in March this year, after failing to comply with civil aviation safety system management regulations. The airline also experienced a dramatic sequence of technical glitches that included engine failures, landing gear problems, and turn-backs.

Comair has been in business rescue for just over two years and, until end April, monthly business rescue practitioner reports maintained that it believed that the company was salvageable.

The picture changed in a month. In its court papers filed, the BRP said: “We are of the view that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of rescuing Comair.”

Comair was placed in provisional liquidation last week and affected parties have until 26 July to argue why the company should not be placed into final liquidation.

The company’s metal assets, its aircraft fleet, is said to be worth R 3,5 billion but it owes close to that to creditors.

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Mohale Motaung

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