Proudly sponsored by

CemAir goes mainstream, grows operations by 50%

Regional airline says it’s ‘now or never’.
The airline has applied for approvals for flights to six more destinations in Africa. Image: CemAir

While airlines worldwide fight for their survival in the wake of Covid-19, regional airline CemAir is increasing operations by 50%.

It was the first local airline to take to the skies after the hard lockdown ended, entering the mainstream domestic market with almost daily flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.


CemAir is also buying three Airbus A319 aircraft and has applied for approvals for flights to six more destinations in Africa.

Before Covid-19 CemAir provided charter flights and leases to other airlines as well as scheduled flights to smaller, municipal airports in South Africa and destinations in southern Africa.

Good time to buy aircraft

The airline, owned by pilot Miles van der Molen, owns a fleet of 34 aircraft, but it is “now or never” in terms of growth, says marketing manager Shaniel Singh.

With the industry in crisis there is an oversupply of aircraft and as a result prices have dropped significantly.

Singh says CemAir became “the king of repatriation flights” during the hard lockdown.

“We brought 8 000 South Africans home from 23 countries,” he says.

This was no simple task. The operator could only apply for the required permits once there were enough passengers, but the passengers wanted to know when the flight would depart before making their booking.

Industry shake-up

Singh says the domestic air travel market has changed dramatically due to the impact of Covid-19.

Airlink and FlySafair started flying shortly after CemAir, while SAA and Comair’s two brands – British Airways and – have not yet returned to the sky. Comair has reopened bookings and hopes to resume flights on December 1, but a court battle with labour might put a spanner in the works.

Airlink, a regional airline like CemAir, is now also flying the main routes. It has changed its colours and announced new routes to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Singh says the domestic market is recovering, although many corporates are still to change policy to allow the resumption of business travel.

FlySafair, according to its marketing manager Kirby Gordon, expects passenger numbers in December to be at only 57% of the previous December. FlySafair is however operating at the same level as in November 2019 and even expects a bit of growth in December.domestic

Domestic operators

By January there will be seven operators in the domestic market, namely CemAir, Airlink, FlySafair, Mango, British Airways Comair and, as well as newcomer Lift.

Of these only CemAir and Airlink offer full service.

Flight Centre MD Andrew Stark says the increase in airlines will stimulate demand and drive ticket prices down.

Transport economist Joachim Vermooten says it is critical for airlines to use the right aircraft for each route. The bigger the aircraft, the bigger the risk, he says. “When you fail to fill up a large aircraft, you lose money very fast,” he says.

Read: SA Civil Aviation Authority grounds CemAir’s 21 planes (Dec 2018)

Airlink’s E190 Embraer aircraft with two seats on each side of the aisle works better for social distancing than aircraft with three seats on each side, he says.

Vermooten says domestic load factors are currently at only 26% compared to a year ago. He expects this to increase to 30% next year and 45% in 2022.

He says managing supply and demand is very challenging in the current market and most airlines won’t be able to utilise their full fleet as they did before the pandemic hit.

He cautions that the market might be fully served when SAA eventually resumes flying. That might necessitate further subsidies for the national carrier, to the detriment of its competitors.

Read: Gordhan stakes his reputation and SA’s on airline


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


Lets just hope SAA via CAA does not try to shut them down like the last totally unwarranted, illegal action by CAA.

Just wait until CemAir makes a profit and the (new?) SAA starts operating and cannot make a profit.
What will happen then?
Go and look at the history of airlines in South Africa………

Maybe I’m wrong?
Maybe I’m not wrong?

It sounds like “heads you win, tails I lose”

you should tell that to the families of the deceased.. all because of Miles and his unscrupulous ways.

7 Operators in the local market!! Some will probably not survive..

Add Mango to that: it’s another tax guzzler, not yet bailouts in its own right but by piggybacking on the back of SAA!
A few months back Mango got R1bn from government – enough to make you pu”*ke given how this is bullying private airlines like Cemair and others!

Privately owned and no bailout from the government?
And expanding?
Is there a lesson here somewhere?

And they were incorrectly grounded by the CAA for 6 months. Apart from the covid grounding.

Flysafair and Airlink have basically taken over the skies in SA if one looks at flights and passenger numbers on the main routes. It’s going to be a hard road back for Comair, and impossible for SAA without bailouts. Let’s not forget that SAA owed Comair more than R1.3bn after a court battle over SAA’s anti-competitive behaviour in the early 2000’s, and owed Airlink several hundred million Rand for tickets sold on behalf of Airlink without paying the money over before going into business rescue. Imagine what these two could have done with that amount of money.

Miles van der Molen still the dodgiest operator out there, from aircraft crashes and doctored weight & balance sheets, over weight flights etc etc. Absolutely shocking that this operator is still in business after what has happened in the past.

Let’s just hope that enough people will be savvy enough not to support SAA and put it out of it’s misery – in the interest of the nation!

Flew with this crowd to Sishen. They had a very lean method of operation with the aircrew doing every from check in to loading baggage. However they got me to and from the destination safely at half the price of the other operators on the route.

Mango got R1bn tax payers’ money from government piggy backing on SAA’s business rescue process a few months back. So boycott Mango altogether this Xmas!

Now is also the time for Cemair to top up with toothpicks, chopstix and earplugs; all excess SAA stock of these items and more are on auction! Unfortunately SAA’s sole Promoter and Praise Singer, Pravin Gordhan, is NOT yet for sale…

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles: Advanced Search
Click a Company: