South Africa’s Comair Suspends Operations Over Safety Concerns (Update)

South Africa’s Comair Suspends Operations Over Safety Concerns (Update)

23
Update: After a five day suspension, Comair’s Air Operator Certificate has been reinstated. This comes as Level 1 findings have been resolved, and the airline works to continue improving safety. You can find the original post from March 13 below.

Yesterday Comair was forced to suspend operations for a period of 24 hours over safety concerns. That suspension has now been made indefinite, as not all issues have been addressed in that period.

British Airways’ South Africa franchise suspends operations

On Saturday the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for Comair, including its Kulula.com subsidiary. For context, Comair is the British Airways franchise based in South Africa. The airline operates a fleet of Boeing 737s, which it flies domestically, as well as to nearby countries. You can read my review of a Comair business class flight here.

The decision to suspend Comair’s AOC came after an investigation into a recent spate of safety incidents at the airline. This precautionary suspension was initially for a period of 24 hours, and during that time Comair was supposed to demonstrate that the risk and safety management systems at the airline are effective in managing potential hazards. Unfortunately the airline wasn’t fully able to do that, so operations have now been suspended indefinitely.

It’s stated that in the past month alone, Comair has experienced occurrences ranging from an engine failure, to an engine malfunction, to a landing gear malfunction, among other issues.

Comair Boeing 737

Why did Comair’s license get suspended?

What specifically caused Comair’s AOC to be suspended? Regulators recently met up with Comair management to investigate and determine if the airline is in compliance with Civil Aviation Regulations. Among other things, regulators reviewed Comair’s quality control management systems and safety management systems, to establish compliance related to reporting, analysis, follow-up of incidents, and corrective action plans to prevent recurrence.

The outcome of the investigation yielded:

  • Three “level 1 findings,” which is when a situation poses an immediate risk and must be addressed immediately
  • One “level 2 finding,” which is when a situation must be addressed within seven days

In the first 24 hours, Comair has been able to address one of the “level 1 findings,” leaving three more concerns that have to be addressed.

Comair’s Boeing 737 business class

Bottom line

South African airline Comair has been forced to suspend operations, as its Air Operator Certificate has been revoked. This comes after multiple safety incidents in the past several weeks, and regulators not being pleased with management’s systems in place for avoiding these incidents.

Comair’s AOC was initially only suspended for 24 hours, but the suspension has now become indefinite, as management hasn’t been able to address some of the concerns of regulators by today. While Comair is an independent franchise, this isn’t a good look for British Airways either, especially given that Comair planes feature the BA livery.

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  1. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Sounds like they’re flying again: https://businesstech.co.za/news/business/568876/comair-restarts-kulula-and-british-airways-flights-in-south-africa/

  2. Evan Guest

    I had a somewhat scary experience with Comair. I was on a flight where the pilots did not extend the flaps until they were on the runway and about to begin the takeoff roll. This should be done just after pushback and before even entering the taxiway.

  3. AdC Guest

    I see they are now back in the air again. I have flights booked with Comair in April but am now a little skeptical of their safety standards. Would others advise of taking the hit and booking elsewhere?

  4. stogieguy7 Diamond

    A lot of verbiage here involving general "safety" issues but that doesn't seem to get to the center of the issue(s) involving Comair. Probably because it's all being kept hush-hush. Whatever is going on is clearly concerning. And, despite this being a "franchisee" of BA, I'd think that BA would want to have someone involved here in order to preserve their reputation as well. After all, that's BA's livery they're wearing. So, this reflects badly on them too.

  5. Endre Guest

    Better safe than sorry.

  6. Mark Guest

    Their CEO is ex 1time , real ground hog day scenario.

  7. RCB Guest

    I flew Comair from CPT to JNB and back in 2013, and this doesn't surprise me at all!! It was a complete cluster and to say the experience left a lot to be desired is an understatement.

  8. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Ugh.

    I’m booked JNB-CPT-JNB next month.

    Hope they have their act together by then.

    1. Evan Guest

      I wouldn't count on it. This airline does not have a culture of safety. You can't fix that overnight.

  9. Ray Johnson Guest

    Thanks for informing me as to why our Comair flight from Vic Falls to JNB is canceled tomorrow

    3rd flight on inter-Africa travel canceled in the last 3 weeks.

    Only time in my life I am longing for a US carrier. UA, CPT to EWR Monday night, if we can get there.

    1. LCFA Guest

      Hey! Good luck with your travels! I’m sure you’re already researching options, but an FYI, South African Airlink has nonstop flights from Vic Falls to CPT for your connection…it arrives CPT at 420pm, about 3.5 hours before the UA departure to EWR.

      Depending how confident you feel with the connection, the cost for the flight on Monday is almost half the cost if you fly tomorrow, Sunday.

      Best wishes!!

  10. Lee F Guest

    Was just about to book with Avios :(

  11. John Guest

    When booking flights to CPT on KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, BA, etc. tthru JNB, these flights are often given. Will be interesting to see the effects on domestic connections beyond JNB if the suspension continues (as direct Europe - CPT flights on those carriers are often MUCH more expensive than the JNB connections)

    1. Jake212 Guest

      What a crock of sh*t. KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Air France have no connection or jv with Comair, only BA.

    2. Lynn Guest

      Sad state of affairs when Comair is suspended for safety issues etc. BA maintenance on all their aircrafts incl Comair is top class. I wonder whoever is in charge will take responsibility ? Sounds inept

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      BA has no connection with the maintenance on Comair's fleet. The approved MROs for Comair are SAA Technical (which is currently in dire financial straits itself) and Lufthansa Technik - and there has been difficulty for them to transition from SAAT to LHT for a variety of reasons including Comair's own management civil war and subsequent bankruptcy filings. The Comair of 2022 has very little in common with the stellar Comair of pre-2018 other than the name.

  12. Mahomed Mather Guest

    Comair is the parent company. They operate 2 subsidiaries under its brand, namely British Airways (Franchise) a fully fledged service airline IE business class etc and then the low cost airline named kulula.

  13. Sean M. Guest

    Typical weekend shenanigans from SACAA. You never see them impose these suspensions on a Monday or Tuesday for example. They are even referred to as "Friday surprises" among those in the industry.

  14. iv Guest

    It may be a subsidiary but the plane I took to Mauritius from JNB was BA. This is not a good look for British Airways.

    1. Scudder Gold

      Not a subsidiary, but a franchisee. But yes, it does present a brand-management issue for BA.

  15. DenB Diamond

    Ben, in one paragraph it's a 24 hour suspension. In another, 24 months.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ DenB -- Whoops, fixed, thanks!

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Sean M. Guest

Typical weekend shenanigans from SACAA. You never see them impose these suspensions on a Monday or Tuesday for example. They are even referred to as "Friday surprises" among those in the industry.

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TravelinWilly Diamond

The ban is now indefinite.

1
Sean M. Diamond

BA has no connection with the maintenance on Comair's fleet. The approved MROs for Comair are SAA Technical (which is currently in dire financial straits itself) and Lufthansa Technik - and there has been difficulty for them to transition from SAAT to LHT for a variety of reasons including Comair's own management civil war and subsequent bankruptcy filings. The Comair of 2022 has very little in common with the stellar Comair of pre-2018 other than the name.

1
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