South Africa’s civil aviation regulator grounded Comair’s planes indefinitely on Sunday over unresolved safety issues, in a move that also affects low-cost airline Kulula and British Airways, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.
A spokesman for the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) said it had extended a 24-hour precautionary suspension of Comair’s operator certificate indefinitely. The suspension was meant to end on Sunday, but Comair has not adequately addressed all the necessary safety issues, the SACAA said.
“This morning we communicated to them (Comair) that their air operator certificate is now indefinitely suspended until they close all of the findings,” SACAA spokesman Phindiwe Gwebu said, effectively grounding the company’s fleet of Boeing aircraft.
Comair said it was unable to confirm when it would start flying again, after working through the night to provide documentation to SACAA following a review of certain policies, systems and procedures.
“This is a huge blow to our customers, employees and the flying public as it effectively takes 40% of the capacity out of the market,” Glenn Orsmond, CEO of Comair, said in a statement.
There would be considerable implications for the aviation sector and the country should the suspension be prolonged, he added.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), which runs the country’s largest airports, said some of the stranded passengers were placed on chartered flights arranged by BA and Comair, specifically for commuters on the popular Johannesburg and Cape Town route.
“Priority is also given to those passengers who have onward international connecting flights,” Terence Delomoney, Acsa’s group executive operations manager said.
Issuing the precautionary notice on Saturday, the regulator said in the past month Comair had experienced safety problems ranging from “engine failures, engine malfunction and landing gear malfunctions”, among others.
In its investigations, SACAA said it had discovered three so-called “level 1” findings “which pose an immediate risk” and must be addressed immediately.
Gwebu did not elaborate on what outstanding safety issues Comair, which flies local and regional routes from South Africa under the BA livery as part of a licence agreement, needed to address before flying again. Besides flying BA planes, Comair also operates the Kulula brand. — (c) 2022 Reuters