The closure of local airline group Comair will have several knock-on effects on the country’s tourism industry, including more cars on the road, says Tourism Business Council South Africa chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
Speaking to radio station 702, Tshivhengwa noted that Comair’s flights had previously accounted for 40% of the total domestic aviation market through its Kulula and British Airways flights.
This drop in capacity will lead to increased bottlenecks as fewer people opt to fly domestically and instead opt to drive. These capacity issues will extend to the domestic airlines which are still operating in South Africa, with these groups needing regulatroy approval from the Air Serving Council and government to increase the number of flights and operate flights to new destinations, he said.
Tshivhengwa also warned that the closure of Comair will lead to a general increase in domestic flight costs in South Africa as existing demand has not dissipated.
Comair, which operates Kulula.com and is the domestic partner for British Airways in South Africa, cancelled all flights on 1 June, less than three months after being grounded by the regulator over a series of safety incidents that required diversions and emergency landings.
The group went into business rescue in May 2020 after Covid-19 pandemic era lockdowns, travel bans, as well as rising fuel prices, wreaked havoc on the travel industry. The airline resumed flights in December 2020 while still in business rescue.
The carrier’s administrators were in negotiations with an international backer with a presence in South Africa for funding, after its existing lenders and investors – a group of wealthy individuals who bailed out the airline in 2020 – said they weren’t prepared to put in more funds.
On Thursday (9 June), the airline’s business rescue practitioners said it failed to secure the necessary funding to pull it out of financial straits, and there is no longer any reasonable prospect that the company can be rescued.