South Africa Civil Aviation Authority has grounded Comair’s planes indefinitely over unresolved safety issues. This move comes after a 24 hour precautionary suspension meant to end on Sunday lapsed leaving many passengers stranded.
“This morning we communicated to Comair that their air operator certificate is now indefinitely suspended until they close all of the findings,” SACAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said, effectively grounding the company’s fleet of Boeing (BA.N) aircraft.
While issuing the precautionary notice, the Civil Aviation regulator said that in the past month Comair had been experiencing safety problems ranging from engine failures, engine malfunctions and landing gear malfunctions. Investigations conducted by the regulator discovered three so-called “level 1” findings “which pose an immediate risk” and must be addressed immediately.
Comair said it was unable to confirm when it would start flying again, after working through the night to provide documentation to SACAA following a review of certain policies, systems and procedures.
“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,” Glenn Orsmond, Comair chief executive said in a statement.
“The implications for the aviation sector and the country are considerable should the suspension continue for any length of time,” he added.
Comair not only operates the Kulula brand but also flies local and regional routes from South Africa under the British Airways (BA) livery as part of a license
According to Airports Company SA (ACSA), which runs the country’s largest airports, some of the stranded passengers on the popular Johannesburg and Cape Town route were placed on chartered flights arranged by BA and Comair.
“We will do everything we can to accommodate customers affected by the suspension on other flights, prioritizing vulnerable customers and those who most urgently need to travel,” Comair said, adding that customers would also be kept informed via text.