Johannesburg - Operating a “less efficient” fleet made the closure of low-cost airline 1time inevitable, Comair chief executive Erik Venter has said. And if it wasn’t for Mango, the airline would have made sufficient profit to upgrade its fleet and survive.
Venter’s comments come in the wake of the demise of the budget airline on Friday, which left thousands of passengers across the country stranded.
The airline announced on Friday afternoon that it had filed for liquidation and immediately grounded all its aircraft.
The news also prompted Natasha Michael, the DA’s public enterprises spokeswoman, to call on the national carrier SAA to assist stranded 1time passengers.
She described 1time’s closure as a “blow” to consumers, and said it was a consequence of the “anti-competitive” behaviour of SAA, SA Express and Mango.
“As the long-time beneficiary of generous government support, SAA should do everything it can to assist 1time passengers, and we strongly encourage them to offer discounted flight options to stranded 1time travellers,” Michael said.
She added that because state-funded airlines could rely on government bailouts, domestic airlines were unable to compete fairly.
According to Venter, 10 of the 11 private airlines launched in South Africa since 1991 had shut down, leaving only kulula and British Airways, both operated by Comair.
Venter said 1time’s closure brought into question Mango’s role in the South African market and the government’s failure to address unfair competition in the domestic aviation sector.
“While we will obviously put up resistance to the unfair competition from SAA and Mango, this is not new to us. We have been dealing with this for most of our history,” he said, adding that Comair had focused on re-engineering its operations to return to profitability by June this year.
Mango chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout said Friday was a sad day for South African aviation.
“While we may have been competitors, the liquidation of 1time is not good news. Not only does it affect the families of employees, but also thousands of people with confirmed travel across the country, and the aviation sector as a whole. Everyone at Mango’s hearts go out to our friends and industry colleagues at 1time.”