CAA lifts Comair’s suspension

After grounding the airline’s fleet since Saturday, due to safety concerns.
Comair’s Air Operator Certificate has been reinstated with immediate effect. Image: Supplied

South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the lifting of its suspension of Comair’s operations late on Wednesday night, opening the way for the Kulula.com and British Airways Comair (BA Comair) operator to take to the skies again.

The reinstatement of Comair’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) comes in the wake of the airline group’s fleet being grounded on March 12, following the CAA raising safety concerns after Comair reportedly failed to address all the safety issues raised during an inspection by the regulator.

Read: Comair planes grounded indefinitely over safety concerns

Comair’s grounding since Saturday resulted in dozens of its flights being cancelled, forcing stranded passengers to find alternative flights or change their travel plans in the wake of a spike in flight prices.

The lifting of the suspension will come as a huge relief for Comair, which underwent a business rescue following the Covid-19 fallout.

However, it was unclear on Wednesday night whether the airline would recommence flights from Thursday or Friday.

In its statement, the CAA noted that it had “concluded the assessment and evaluation of Comair’s evidence to close the Level 1 findings” raised during its audit of the airline that started on March 7, 2022.

Read:
CompCom warns airlines against price gouging after Comair grounding
Comair requires more funding

“The evaluation of the evidence was concluded on the evening of 16 March 2022. The impact of this outcome paves the way for the Director of Civil Aviation to [lift] the AOC of Comair with immediate effect,” the regulator added.

The CAA reiterated that it had “audited Comair following a spate of occurrences which posed safety risks by Kulula.com and BA Comair airlines”.

Listen to Luvuyo Silandela of the CAA as he unpacks Comair’s compliance woes (or read transcript)

“The regulator sought to confirm Comair’s compliance with applicable Civil Aviation Regulations… The inspection was also aimed at reviewing Comair’s safety management systems and quality control management system to establish compliance related to the reporting, analysis and follow-up on occurrences, and corrective action plans to prevent recurrence,” it pointed out.

“This brings to an end a five-day-long suspension of the AOC which was imposed by the Regulator from 12 March 2022,” said the CAA.

“The Director of Civil Aviation heralds the commitment shown by the Regulator’s inspectorate team from the first day of the audit leading up to the sleepless nights spent evaluating evidence all in the interest of ensuring aviation safety.”

Comair cooperation

“The cooperation and commitment of the operator [Comair] during this period signalled the seriousness in which the operator took this matter and the openness displayed in the days leading up to this day [Wednesday night],” it added.

“It is this collaboration that ensures that civil aviation safety remains a top priority in South Africa.”

“South Africa holds a very high-performance record in terms of the standards of safety and security. According to ICAO, South Africa’s safety index is rated at level +1 which means that based on South Africa’s performance in the areas of operations, support, and air navigation, the country is rated above average,” noted the CAA.

“This discipline in ensuring high levels of civil aviation safety and security is demonstrated by the continuous prestigious performance of South Africa in international safety and security assessments.

“This places South Africa amongst the approximately top 40 countries amongst 193 countries globally. This continuous improvement is a principle which the Regulator will work hard to improve as it ensures that aviation remains the safest mode of transport in this country,” it said.

Listen to Kirby Gordon of FlySafair speaking about price gouging claims (or read the transcript)

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The entire grounding seemed like a political move.

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