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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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No airline is too big or small to survive without industry support

JAVED Malik, an avid aviator and strong advocate of transformation in South Africa, is the co-founder of Cobra Aviation, a passenger and cargo operator.

JAVED Malik, an avid aviator and strong advocate of transformation in South Africa, is the co-founder of Cobra Aviation, a passenger and cargo operator.

Published Jun 14, 2022


By Javed Malik

The ongoing sad story of Comair has once again cemented my view that no airline is too big or small, to survive the rigours of the aviation industry, no matter what kind of fuel efficiency, model of aircraft, management, financial muscle or backing.

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In many respects, Comair was one of the best airlines in South Africa for a long time. Seeing it go down this way is a huge loss for our aviation sector.

However, the news did not surprise me.The blow is staggering to the people it employed – such as pilots, technicians, engineers, cabin crews, office staff, management and suppliers – who have been thrown to the kerb amid tough economic times. This means many families have already begun to go to bed on empty stomachs.

With the current high unemployment statistics, the unhealthy and sensitive state of our aviation sector is worrisome. It means serious investors will think twice about bringing their money into the South African aviation sector. Confidence has been dented, particularly when looking at Comair as a high-performing airline brand.

There is also a need to highlight the truth that cheap air tickets have never been good for the airline industry or so called healthy competition. They may look good to attract customers, but if maintained for long, it can easily be a loss-making disaster. The message for consumers is that they must not look for cheap tickets, which are dangerous regardless of which airline brand is offering them and should be a red flag for the consumer to watch out for.

Offering cheap tickets drives the airline out of the skies and the market loses confidence in the aviation industry.

With the above in mind, there is a need for airlines to operate at a level where there is an understanding that only sustainable ticket costs can take the passenger, tourism and aviation sector forward. It can reduce the risk of turbulence, which in most cases can be far reaching, depending on the airline brand affected.To stabilise our aviation sector we need to work as a united force, sharing non-sensitive data while we enjoy our competing brands and operating independently.

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Let’s avoid focusing on winning the race, at the expense of taking others out of business. Rather, let's participate in a race that we are able to maintain or sustain its health for the benefit of all. I also would like to highlight a concern that there are always some self made experts, or they believe they are bosses of the industry, out there ready to plan how to destabilise any new airline.

Suspiciously, they act as if they are just random aviation sector commentators, when in fact they are working in cahoots with established airlines. In some cases they are working with financial institutions.

Their comments are usually something like, “new airlines cannot make it”. Usually, this is out of the blue and informed by jealousy or dislike for competition. It is done to set a specific agenda designed to indirectly influence regulatory organisations, consumers and other key institutions.

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As a result, there is no merit in certifying the process and some of the applications will be declined. After we have witnessed what can happen to the big brands, it is a time for “so called“ aviation experts, with a specific agenda and their views for favouritism of specific brands, to shut up.

For many years I have been talking to big brand airlines in South Africa, and raising my voice via the media about aviation concerns. But my concerns fell on deaf ears as big airline operators tend to adopt the arrogant attitude that they would never fail.

Once again my request to all aviation stakeholders and aviation organisations is this: “No matter how small or big an operator you are, let’s work together to maintain the stability and confidence of the consumer in us.”

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If airline operators keep this attitude of being too big to fail, think again, as it can happen to anyone. However, I have no doubt our aviation sector will rise again, but let’s work together for a more sustainable flight path ahead.

Javed Malik, an avid aviator and strong advocate of transformation in South Africa, is the co-founder of Cobra Aviation, a passenger and cargo operator.