On Tuesday, South African British Airways franchise carrier Comair announced that it would be suspending all services. The halting of operations will begin on Thursday and last until the 19th of April. It includes all flights under the airline’s own low-cost kulula.com brand.
Three-week SA lockdown impacts BA carrier
British Airways South African franchise carrier Comair is the latest in the long list of airlines to announce the suspension of all traffic as a result of the corona-crisis. Beginning on Thursday until the 19th of April, all of Comair’s personnel will be sent home. The dates for the suspension coincide with the time set by the South African government for a three-week nationwide lockdown, announced on Monday.
In a statement on Tuesday, Comair described the coronavirus as the most devastating global pandemic in modern times and said that it had “certainly put a huge strain on operations”. It said that this would force everyone to change how business is conducted, and how customers are served.
“We will resume with our scheduled flights on Sunday April 19 2020. Comair will try to accommodate customers wanting to travel over the next two days, subject to availability and fare differences. We will not operate any flights on Thursday March 26,” the airline’s CEO Wrenelle Stander said in the statement.
What does it mean for Comair passengers and staff?
The company further announced that all of its staff would be sent home, and those able to work from their homes would continue to do so. It did not mention any potential support for employees who would find themselves without work and income. Passengers scheduled to fly during this time are offered to change their tickets without a fee (although differences in fare would still apply) or receive a voucher for the amount of the original ticket, valid for 12 months.
Comair was founded in 1946 and today owns 20 aircraft of varying Boeing 737 models. One of these is the grounded 737 MAX, with another 7 on order. It joined BA as a franchise partner in 1996 and took on the livery of British Airways International. As such, it is a member of the oneworld Alliance. It employs 2,193 people.
Kulula, South Africa’s cheeky budget player
Comair’s kulula.com was established in July 2001 as South Africa’s first budget airline. With its easily recognizable green liveries, it has become one of the most well-known brands in the country. kulula.com has one Boeing 737-400, and nine 737-800 in its fleet. It operates on five major domestic routes with its hub at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The airline holds codeshare agreements with Comair, KLM, and Kenya Airways and employs 300 people.
kulula.com has also made itself known for cheeky planes, such as Flying 101, This Way Up, and Europcar. In 2010, it was forced by FIFA to stop a campaign where it declared itself to be the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What” which was taking place “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between” (obviously referring to the FIFA World Cup). The name Kulula comes from the Nguni language of the Zulu and Xhosa, and means “it’s easy.”
Hopefully, one day very soon, it will truly be easy to fly again. Have you flown with British Airways Comair or Kulula? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!