Comair’s British Airways and kulula grounded till September
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JSE-LISTED aviation company Comair would extend the suspension of scheduled kulula.com and Comair-operated British Airways flights until the end of August.
The company said in a statement yesterday that its decision followed President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing the adjusted level 4 lockdown would remain in place for at least the next two weeks.
According to Comair, the prohibition of all non-essential travel in and out of Gauteng, very little to no demand for business travel and international travel bans had resulted in Comair temporarily suspending all scheduled flights from July 5.
The initial intention had been to recommence operations from the end of this month. However, uncertainty over the length of the recently adjusted level 4 lockdown, restrictions on travel in and out of Gauteng and the rampant transmission of the Delta variant of Covid-19 had forced Comair to make a decision to suspend flight operations until August 31, the company said.
“This decision has been taken in the interest of the well-being of employees and customers. Without government engagement with or support for the aviation sector and associated services, the ability to plan constructively for a meaningful service beyond July 30 is exceptionally challenging,” the company said.
Taking the potential variables into consideration, Comair planned to resume scheduled operations on September 1.
Comair chief executive Glenn Orsmond apologised to customers affected by the suspension.
“This decision was not made lightly, as it has a significant impact on both our customers and our employees.
“However, under the circumstances, we believe it is the correct course of action to ensure the health and well-being of our customers and employees. We empathise with the government’s unenviable position with regards to balancing the health of the nation and the suffering economy,” said Orsmond.
Orsmond said they anticipated the vaccine roll-out picking up pace in earnest and hoped to see it reaching critical mass in the next month or two, and looked forward to welcoming back their customers on September 1.
The company returned to operation in December last year following the aviation sector’s pounding by the pandemic, which resulted in an upsurge in online business meetings, while leisure travel was inhibited. The travelling public remained largely reluctant to venture out of their provinces during the festive season.
Delivering the Department of Tourism’s budget vote to the National Council of Provinces last month, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko KubayiNgubane said although the full impact of the Covid-19 crisis on tourism had yet to be determined, it was clear some of the scars to the tourism sector would be permanent.
“Projections have shown that full recovery of the sector can only be expected after 2023. Until then, the sector will remain in survival mode, with many tourism jobs and businesses being at risk. Globally, destinations are also trying to tackle the challenge of reigniting their tourism economies,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.