Comair And South African Airways Are Returning Grounded Aircraft To Service


Comair and South African Airways aircraft which were grounded earlier this week have now returned to service. Flights have been operating as normal since Wednesday 23rd October.

Grounded SAA and Comair flights have now resumed schedule. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

Services return to normal

At 9 am local time on 23rd October, Comair released a statement on its website announcing that its aircraft were back in service. The British Airways franchise partner said:

“Comair confirms that its fleet is fully operational as normal this morning. We would like to thank our customers and other stakeholders for their understanding and continued support.”

Comair said on its website that a third of its fleet had been affected by the audit. Its fleet is now back to normal.

Comair operates the British Airways livery. Photo: Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons

What about South African Airways? A spokesperson for the airline told Simple Flying:

“We subjected the aircraft to compliance verification process to ensure that they become compliant in line with the CAA regulations. We can indicate now that more than 80% of the affected aircraft are now compliant and have returned to service. We are satisfied that the contingency plans we have in place were able to respond to the situation and ensure that we continue to operate.”

South African Airways had 25 aircraft, from a fleet of 44, that were affected by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) safety audit. Despite this, the airline only canceled four domestic flights. These flights were due to be operated by Airbus A320.

Some of South African Airways A320 aircraft were grounded. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

What was the issue?

The reason for the aircraft grounding was initially a bit of a mystery. We were told that the SACAA had conducted a safety audit and that aircraft had been grounded as a precautionary measure. The silence suggested that there may have been some larger issue with the aircraft.


However, a spokesperson for South African Airways told us that the issue was more to do with the qualifications of the individuals who issued the Certificate of Release to Service (CRS).

South African Airways said that the engineers who provided the CRS did not meet the high standards set out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Therefore, the airline believed that they were unqualified. South African Airways said that it did not dispute the qualifications of the personnel who maintained and repaired the aircraft.

After just one day of disruption, the turnaround for getting aircraft back into service was swift. It will surely be no time at all before the remaining 20% of the South African Airways’ fleet returns to a normal schedule.


The immediate impact of the grounding

The main disruption of the grounding happened on Tuesday.

Comair issued the following statement on Tuesday. Photo: Kulula via Twitter

Earlier this week, Comair and South African Airways were subject to a routine safety audit by the SACAA. According to Reuters, the organization said that it had found “faults” with the aircraft although the specific issues were never disclosed.

It forced these two airlines, as well as Mango Airlines and Kulula, to reschedule its services as it removed aircraft from service.

Were you affected by the groundings in South Africa? Let us know!