Aviation industry gradually getting back to the skies
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JOHANNESBURG - SOUTH Africa’s troubled aviation industry is gradually getting back to the skies as the Covid-19 turbulence has eased in the country while the vaccination drive is being rolled out.
Low-cost carrier kulula.com flights resumed scheduled flight operations to Cape Town and Durban from privately-owned Lanseria International Airport on Thursday, April 1, for the first time in 12 months.
In terms of the lockdown, kulula.com’s parent company Comair was required to stop flying on March, 26, 2020 and only resumed its passenger services on December, 1, 2020 at OR Tambo International Airport.
Similar to the reintroduction of its other routes, kulula.com will commence with a limited schedule at Lanseria, adding additional frequencies over the next couple of months as demand picks up.
The two routes, which have always been popular with both business and leisure travellers, were reopened just in time for the Easter break and will be a permanent weekly schedule operation.
Kulula.com executive head of sales Brian Kitchin said they were excited to be back at Lanseria.
“This well-situated gateway to the north-western parts of Gauteng is a perfect fit for kulula.com and aids us to deliver a travel experience that is effortless and convenient,” Kitchin said.
Comair has restructured the airline after it entered business rescue following a half-year loss of R564 million for the first-half of 2020 due to an unprecedented situation of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Disruption caused by the Covid-19 lockdown did not spare even state-owned Airports Company of SA (Acsa) as airline traffic plummeted more than 65 percent in 2020.
The pandemic plunged Acsa into a R1.47 billion loss for its half-year to the end of September 2020.
Lanseria chief executive Rampa Rammopo said they were delighted to welcome kulula.com and their passengers back at the airport.
“As we continue to rebuild air travel in the thrust of the Covid pandemic, Lanseria remains committed to advancing the local economy, tourism service providers, industry and supporting South Africa as the gateway to the continent,” Rammopo said.
Meanwhile, state-owned South African Airways (SAA) does not seem to be anywhere near taking off after 15 months of a business rescue process.
On the day SAA was expected to announce the completion of its rescue last week, the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) gave the airline 48 hours’ notice of a strike.
SAA pilots, who have been locked out of SAA since December last year, said they would embark on a strike over a dispute about outstanding salary payments and the conditions of their retrenchment.
Saapa’s Grant Back said pilots had not been paid salaries for almost a year.
“They're using the same old narrative of blaming us and our agreement for every woe at South African Airways. We could have worked for free for years and SAA would still have lost billions,” Back said.
Two weeks ago, SAA rescuers said they were making every effort to finalise the outstanding items of the rescue process by the end of March.
The rescuers claimed to have transitioned the airline from being an insolvent company to a company that is both solvent and liquid.