Maintenance Challenges Cause Comair “Substantial Losses”

Comair’s 2018/19 annual report reveals the extent of the losses it suffered as a result of mismanagement at South Africa Airways’ maintenance arm. Corruption at SAA Technical compounded Comair’s lack of flight-ready aircraft throughout 2018/19.

A Comair Boeing 737
Comair flies as a franchisee of the British Airways brand. Photo: Paul Tyson via Wikimedia Commons

South Africa-based Comair has revealed the “substantial losses” it has suffered as a result of disruption within its main aircraft maintenance supplier.

SAA Technical, the maintenance arm of South African Airways, prides itself on its “world-class aviation maintenance” services. But SAA Technical has come under scrutiny for serious mismanagement throughout its organization, according to reports by MRO-Network.com.

According to the figures released in Comair’s 2018/19 report, supply issues at SAA Technical resulted in additional costs of $10.5 million throughout the year.

This equates to a 68% fall in operating profits for Comair, which is already under increased pressure as a result of the Boeing 737 MAX groundings.

The airline had placed an order for eight Boeing 737 MAX, receiving just one before the worldwide grounding was announced in March.

The loss of this crucial new addition to Comair’s small fleet came at a bad time for the airline.

Comair’s rocky relationship with South African Airways

Comair operates primarily as a British Airways brand franchisee across southern Africa. It also has its own low-cost carrier called kulula.com which operates a number of domestic routes within South Africa.

As shown in its 2018/19 yearly report, Comair relied on SAA Technical to maintain its aircraft.

Kulula
Kulula operates domestic flights within South Africa. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

SAA Technical failed to deliver adequate maintenance services, meaning Comair had to opt for expensive short-term leases to cover its capacity gaps.

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But this certainly isn’t the first time Comair and South African Airways have clashed. Earlier this year, Comair won a 16-year-long anti-competitiveness court case against South African Airways.

South African Airways was ordered to pay Comair $73.4 million after it was found South African Airways paid travel agencies for their loyalty.

SAA Technical’s corruption scandal

South African Airways has recently launched an investigation into reports of an organized looting syndicate which is wreaking havoc at SAA Technical.

Reports by Fin24 today reveal that the airline has submitted forensic reports to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority in an attempt to deal with what has been described as an “organized crime syndicate” operating within SAA Technical.

The syndicate is accused of widespread theft of aircraft components from SAA Technical’s inventory, which has had severe knock-on effects for the company’s clients.

A South African Airways Airbus A340
South African Airways has suffered as a result of chronic mismanagement. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

Comair’s solution to the problem

Comair has announced that it will be moving its aircraft maintenance contract away from SAA Technical as a result of the ongoing issues.

Comair will now be using Lufthansa Technik for line maintenance services. Following its recent acquisition of Star Air Maintenance and Star Air Cargo, Comair will be looking to perform its own heavy maintenance in the future.

Following its successful court battle against South African Airways and the transfer of its maintenance contract away from SAA Technical, Comair should be looking towards a more positive 2019/20 yearly report.

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