British Airways’ franchise partner in Southern Africa, Comair, plans to resume flights from December 2020.
Comair has been in a business rescue process since early May. It had been required to suspend flight operations on 26 March due to lockdown in South Africa. The airline had also been suffering due to high debt levels, the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX and non-payment of compensation by South African Airways.
Under a Business Rescue Plan published yesterday, Wednesday 2 September, the airline will be recapitalised. It will receive a financial injection of R500 million by a new investor in return for a 99% shareholding in the airline.
Comair will also require additional funding from lenders of R1.4 billion. This will comprise R600 million of new debt. Comair’s existing debts will be deferred to provide the remaining R800 million, with repayments deferred for 12 months and interest deferred for 6 months.
It is intended that Comair maintain its dual brand structure, operating as British Airways under a franchise and as Kulula. According to the list of creditors BA was owed R50,998,152 (~£2.2m) by Comair. As a consequence of the Business Rescue process, BA’s shareholding will be wiped out.
Comair aims to resume flight operations from December 2020 with a view to operating a full flight schedule by June 2021.
It is expected that Comair’s fleet will initially comprise 20 aircraft of which 17 will be Boeing 737-800 aircraft and the remaining 3 will be Boeing 737-400 aircraft. This may ultimately increase to 25 aircraft and compares to a fleet of 27 aircraft before Comair suspended operations.
The Business Rescue Plan is subject to a vote by creditors and shareholders which will close on Friday 18 September.
BA has now made a similar move for South Africa. The airline will be operating special one-way only flights from Johannesburg on Sunday 6, Friday 11, Friday 25 and Sunday 27 September 2020.
These flights will leave Johannesburg in the morning, rather than the evening. The exact flight times quoted by BA differ from what is currently showing on ba.com Flights will be operated with Boeing 777 aircraft.
These flights close for sale 7 days before departure. Seats are offered for sale in World Traveller economy, World Traveller Plus premium economy and Club World business class at fixed prices. Passengers must ensure they complete the forms specified by BA in advance of travel.
There are also specific procedures for check-in, which takes place at the Garden Court Hotel at OR Tambo International airport.
Whilst passengers can connect from domestic flights in South Africa, BA’s franchise partner Comair has suspended all flights until November 2020.
More detailed guidance is available in a document BA has released for its travel trade partners.
Whilst these are only two one-off flights, it is hoped it is at least the start of progress between airlines and governments to reopen scheduled international travel in a secure manner.
Update Friday 25 September
British Airways will resume daily scheduled flights from London Heathrow to Cape Town and Johannesburg on 1 October 2020.
British Airways’ franchise partner in Africa, Comair, has entered a Business Rescue Process.
This is a formal restructuring process, similar to Chapter 11 in the United States. Business Rescue Practitioners have been appointed to oversee the running of the company and a restructuring, with the aim of avoiding a liquidation.
Originally founded in 1946, Comair also operates the airline brand Kulula and SLOW lounges in Africa. Its airlines are currently grounded and it does not expect to resume operations until October 2020 at the earliest.
British Airways owns a 11.49% stake in Comair. It became a BA franchise in 1996. It operates routes to destinations in South Africa, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe from its main hub at Johannesburg with a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft.
The BA franchise is clearly very important to BA’s brand presence in South Africa and providing connecting traffic to and from BA’s long-haul routes to London. Comair is one of two remaining BA franchise partners. The other being SUN-AIR of Scandinavia.
Comair’s state owned rival South African Airways is expected to be liquidated with a new airline formed.
Comair has issued the following statement. Note the comment from its CEO Wrenelle Stander about reviewing joint-ventures. Whilst Comair’s BA franchise is highly regarded, it is of course at liberty to end its franchise agreement with BA.
Virgin Atlantic is to return to Cape Town after a break of five years with a new winter seasonal service from London Heathrow.
Flights will operate daily from Sunday 25 October 2020 with a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Virgin used to fly to Cape Town until April 2015 when the route was suspended as part of a wide-ranging review of the Virgin Atlantic route network.
Cape Town is a hugely popular winter long-haul destination and the arrival of additional capacity will be welcomed.
Following the closure of Thomas Cook, the route has been exclusively operated by British Airways with daily Boeing 747s from London Heathrow and a winter seasonal Boeing 777 service from London Gatwick. It’s fair to say that the interior condition of Virgin’s 787-9 aircraft is significantly better than some of BA’s soon to be retired 747s that are used on this route.
Flight VS478 will depart London Heathrow at 16:20 arriving at Cape Town at 05:55.
Flight VS479 will depart Cape Town at 08:00 arriving at London Heathrow at 18:00.
Note the return to London Heathrow is a day flight and some may passengers prefer a night flight. There is of course the option of flying back to Heathrow overnight on Virgin Atlantic’s daily service from Johannesburg.
Flights will go on sale from Tuesday 18 February 2020.
Flights will be operated with a three class Boeing 787-8 aircraft.
This is the only direct route between Europe and Durban. Emirates flies direct to Durban from Dubai. Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines also serve Durban via Johannesburg.
Although flights do not operate daily, it will be possible to connect to domestic BA services to/from Cape Town and Johannesburg on flights operated by BA’s franchise partner Comair.
This does solidify BA’s position on the London – South Africa market. BA is the sole operator on London Heathrow – Cape Town, to where BA can despatch up to three Boeing 747s a day in the winter. BA also operates up to two Airbus A380s a day on London Heathrow – Johannesburg, where South African Airways is cutting capacity.
One noteworthy difference to Cape Town and Johannesburg is that the return flight to London is a day flight rather than an overnight flight, which is obviously a matter of personal preference.
South African Airways is to reduce flights between London Heathrow and Johannesburg from twice to once daily from Friday 20 April 2018. Flight SA237 will last operate from London Heathrow on Thursday 19 April 2018.
South African Airways is to cut one of its twice-daily flights between London Heathrow and Johannesburg from Friday 20 April 2018.
Flight SA237, which departs London Heathrow at 21:00, will last operate from London Heathrow on Thursday 19 April 2018.
The state-owned (and reportedly loss-making) airline has taken the sting out of the announcement by saying that the one remaining fight (SA235) will be operated by a new Airbus A330-300 aircraft from Sunday 25 March 2017. This two class aircraft features upgraded business class seating (pictured above) with direct aisle access for all passengers. Currently, both South African Airways flights from London are operated with Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
British Airways is to launch a winter seasonal service from London Gatwick to Cape Town in South Africa from Thursday 24 November 2016.
Flights will operate three times a week and will complement the airline’s existing twice daily service from London Heathrow. It will also compete directly against Thomas Cook’s new service to Cape Town from London Gatwick which runs from 15 December 2016 to the weekend of Saturday 25/Sunday 26 March 2017. The seasonal service is currently scheduled to return from mid November 2017 to late March 2018. However, this may change depending on the commercial performance of the route.
BA flights will be operated using a three class Boeing 777 aircraft which will offer Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy.
Cape Town in South Africa has long been a very popular destination for Britons seeking winter sun.
However, direct flight options between London and Cape Town have in the past year become limited to British Airways following the withdrawal of Virgin Atlantic’s seasonal route and the previous suspension by South African Airways.
Thomas Cook has now entered the market with the launch of a three times weekly flight between London Gatwick and Cape Town.
The flight will operate for three months from 15 December 2016 to 20 March 2017.
Flights will be operated using Airbus A330 aircraft in a two class economy and premium configuration.
The flight times have not yet been published.
This route adds to a growing portfolio of long-haul leisure routes at London Gatwick with Norwegian’s expanding transatlantic network and WestJet and Air Canada Rouge due to launch flights to Canada from London Gatwick next year.