One of the best-known names in African aviation looks destined for the history books.
Bankruptcy protection lawyers on behalf of Comair filed an application to liquidate the company which is scheduled to be heard on June 14. The Johannesburg-based firm is best known for flying the British Airways brand in southern Africa, as well as operating low-cost giant kuluka.com
Richard Ferguson, the company’s business rescue practitioner said in a statement: “We did our utmost to secure the funding, but when we were unable to do so had no option to lodge the [liquidation] application. It is an extremely sad day for the company, its employees, its customers and South African aviation.”
In recent weeks, representatives from the ailing company had attempted to secure fresh funding. The severity of the situation became apparent on May 31, when Comair announced it was suspending all British Airways (operated by Comair) and kulula.com flights until it was able to obtain additional funds. At the time, the company said its business rescue practitioners advised that “the process to raise the necessary capital is in progress and that there is reason to believe such funding may be secured”.
Speaking in late May, Glenn Orsmond, Comair CEO said: “Comair is inherently a viable business. We have the two of the best airline brands in the country. We are on track to carry over four million passengers this year and generate R5.3 billion [£275m] in revenue. We have excellent staff, a modern fleet, good sales and distribution channels and low operating costs, which is why we believe the funding will be secured.”
Comair, like many other South African airlines has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the country the focus of global attention during the initial discovery of the Omicron variant. High fuel costs, inflation and a collapse in tourism to the region has also added to the woes.
The statement continued: “The company [Comair] unfortunately faced unforeseen headwinds including three further COVID-related air travel lockdowns inter alia the ‘Red Listing’ of South Africa by certain European countries, notably the United Kingdom, the suspension of the company’s AOC in March 2022 by the regulator as well as significantly high fuel prices experienced in the past five months. Each of these events had a material negative impact on the business.”
At its peak, Comair’s scheduled network covered major cities in South Africa as well as Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe using Boeing 737 aircraft. As Comair is a separate company, British Airways mainline services to and from London are unaffected by the development.
This is a developing story. Key Aero will update this page when further information is available.