South Africa Indefinitely Suspends Comair’s Air Operator Certificate

The SACAA investigation, in the wake of these in-flight emergencies, found three findings that pose an immediate risk to safety of flight.

Photo: Getty Images

South African airline Comair has had its Air Operator Certificate suspended by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) as a precautionary measure due to the airline consortium’s recent in-flight emergencies with engine problems and landing gear issues. Comair operates the low-cost Kulula airline plus regional British Airways flights in Southern Africa.

Why the suspension of Comair’s Air Operator Certificate

The SACAA investigation in the wake of these in-flight emergencies found three findings in Comair’s conduct that pose an immediate risk to safety of flight. Another finding was made by SACAA that must be resolved within a week by Comair. The suspension of Comair flight operations is intended for Comair to eliminate these risks. If the risks are not resolved by March 13, 2022, the suspension will be indefinite until all issues are resolved.


South African Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula publicly defended SACAA, stating,

“The regulator took this decision independently, in line with its mandate to oversee aviation safety,”

Comair’s response

In response to these regulatory developments and suspension of service, Comair issued a statement;

“We are doing everything possible to get the suspension lifted. We continue to engage constructively with the CAA and are working hard to provide the CAA with the additional information it requires,” says Comair CEO Glenn Orsmond.

The airline said it is working with the CAA in getting the suspension lifted before noon Sunday. It was looking to restart service at midday to give it enough time to make arrangements to run as regular a schedule as possible.

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British Airways customer services – who has a contract to have Comair provide regional services in Southern Africa also has tweeted out a response.

We regret that Comair in South Africa has been asked to temporarily halt flights. We understand the impact and inconvenience of this for our customers. We are seeking further details at this stage. Thanks for your continued patience and understanding.

Indefinite move

While the initial suspension was for 24 hours, the SACAA has now confirmed the indefinite suspension. The group recognizes the efforts of the operator to close the findings as swiftly as possible. Moreover, the situation will continue to be assessed and reviewed by inspectors. Altogether, the carrier can appeal the suspension decision. There will undoubtedly be plenty of twists to come in the coming days.

Who can fill the void?

There are other airlines in South Africa that can fill in for Comair like Airlink, Safair, and its low-fare subsidiary FlySafair plus South African Airways. This is not an exhaustive list of alternatives to Comair during this regulatory crisis.

South African Airways, Airbus A320, First Flight

There are plenty of players in the country. Photo: Getty Images

The South African aviation industry has been struggling amid the impact of the pandemic. Stakeholders will be hoping for better prospects this year.

What do you make of Comair’s AOC being suspended? Have you ever had your flight suspended by a regulator body? What do you make of the overall situation? Let us know what you think in the comment section.


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