South Africa suspends Comair, Kulula operator certificates

A Kulula Boeing 737-800. Image: © Bob Adams

South African regulators have on Sunday, March 13, indefinitely suspended the Air Operator Certificates (AOC) of Comair and its subsidiary Kulula after discovering several serious safety issues in the airline’s operations.

This indefinite suspension comes after a 24-hour suspension announced on Saturday in which the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) demanded that the airlines immediately rectify the issues, which the SACAA lists as three Level 1 and one Level 2 findings, or else it would be forced to withdraw the AOC indefinitely. Level 1 findings are serious infringements endangering flight safety while Level 2 findings are less serious but can still cause serious incidents. The announcement of an indefinite suspension indicates the SACAA was not satisfied with the steps taken by Comair.

In a statement issued to South African news outlet Fin24, Comair CEO Glenn Orsmond stated: “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. The implications for the aviation sector and the country are considerable should the suspension continue for any length of time.” Additionally, on the Kulula website the airline stated that it has chartered two aircraft to assist stranded and vulnerable passengers.

Comair and Kulula operate a combined fleet of nearly 25 Boeing 737-400 and 737-800 aircraft, with the Comair fleet operating under a franchise agreement with British Airways. Combined they were the largest airline group in the South African domestic market following the shutdown of South African Airways in 2020.