British Airways’ South African Carrier to Keep Flying Amid Probe

  • Pretoria High Court grants Comair interdict to keep license
  • Airline accused of breaching S. African foreign ownership laws

Comair Ltd., the South African operator of British Airways flights, won a court ruling to continue flying in the country amid a legal investigation into whether the company breaches airline foreign-ownership limits.

The High Court of Pretoria granted an interdict to the Johannesburg-based carrier that ensures its license won’t be withdrawn by the Air Services Licensing Council before the probe is completed, Comair said in a statement on Tuesday. The ASLC argues Comair isn’t compliant with a ruling that airlines can’t be more than 25 percent owned by international entities. Comair says it’s not in breach of the law.

“It’s business as usual and we remain confident that Comair is compliant,” Chief Executive Officer Erik Venter said in a separate e-mailed statement. “We are pleased as this interdict ensures operational certainty for the many thousands of travelers who fly with Comair.”

As well as operating domestic and regional British Airways flights, Comair also owns South African carrier Kulula.com, which operates in the highly competitive low-cost market. Its rivals include Mango, part of state-owned South African Airways, and closely held Flysafair. A fourth budget carrier, Skywise, was suspended by Airports Company South Africa in December due to unpaid charges.

International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, the London-based parent of British Airways, owns an 11.5 percent stake in Comair, according to a spokeswoman. Bidvest Group Ltd., a South African operator of businesses ranging from food distribution to car rentals, owns a 26 percent stake.

Comair shares declined 2.5 percent to 3.15 rand as of 3:48 p.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the airline at 1.5 billion rand ($96 million).

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