South Africa’s Comair Cleared To Merge With Star Air

South Africa’s Competition Commission has confirmed that it has approved Comair’s acquisition of Star Air. The move was first announced back in June, after Comair reportedly paid $5.14 million to acquire Star Air and its repair division, Star Air Maintenance.

Comair Boeing 737
Comair operates under the British Airways brand. Photo: Paul Tyson via Wikimedia Commons

Comair’s acquisition of Star Air was confirmed by the South African Competition Commission last week.

According to reports by CH-Aviation, the Competition Commission recommended that the merger be approved without any restrictions.

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The merger will come as bad news for South African Airways, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection, partly as a result of a $69 million anti-competition settlement it was ordered to pay Comair earlier in the year.

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Comair’s latest acquisition

Star Air of South Africa, not to be confused with Star Air of India or Star Air of Indonesia, is a small aircraft leasing company. According to CH-Aviation, it currently operates a fleet of just 10 aircraft – five Boeing 737-300s and five Boeing 737-300(F)s.

Airlines currently leasing aircraft from Star Air include Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique and BidAir Cargo. Funnily enough, Comair is also a current customer of Star Air, leasing two Boeing 737s.

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An important part of the acquisition is Star Air Maintenance, which provides maintenance services out of its base at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Star Air Cargo B737-219
Star Air leases aircraft in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

Comair

Comair is South Africa’s second-oldest airline after South African Airways. Founded in 1947, Comair operates most of its flights as a British Airways brand franchise. It also operates low-cost domestic flights out of its hub in Johannesburg under the Kulula brand.

Just last week, Comair appointed a new Group CEO, Wrenelle Stander. She is an airline industry veteran who has held previous positions as Managing Director of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company, Director General of the South African Department of Transport, and Deputy CEO of South African Civil Aviation Authority.

British Airways (Comair) B737-236 ZS-SIS
Comair has just appointed a new Group CEO. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

Stander’s appointment is part of a restructuring in the upper echelons of the company’s leadership, as it attempts to become more competitive. Discussing the management reshuffle, Comair Group Chairman, Lindsay Ralphs, said,

“The joint-CEO structure introduced a few months back has been discontinued and these appointments should ensure better performance and efficiency in a very competitive airline industry.”

A history of success

According to a Comair press release published last May, the company had enjoyed 72 years of uninterrupted profitable operations. This record appears to still be intact, going off the company’s 2018/2019 financial results.

We will have to wait to find out whether this success has continued through the 2019/20 financial year. This year’s financial performance will have been helped significantly by the $69 million South African Airways settlement.

CH Aviation reports that Comair’s upper management will be meeting with Les Matuson, who has recently been posted as business rescue practitioner at South African Airways.

Discussions will likely involve negotiation of some sort of payment schedule which allows South African Airways to stay afloat while it tries to fight off bankruptcy.

Simple Flying has reached out to Comair for comment on its acquisition of Star Air, but the airline has not yet been able to respond.

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Southsun

Having cancelled it’s Maintenance contract with SAA, Star is a useful add on whilst LHTechnical get up and running in JNB. The depth of SAA problems is clear to all as LH used to contract SAA some years ago for 747 checks…