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WATCH: Comair staff, Numsa calls for removal of ‘incompetent’ CEO as airline stays grounded

Published Mar 16, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) union members and Comair staff are calling for the removal of chief executive Glenn Orsmond.

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It comes as they picketed outside the airlines head offices in Kempton Park on Tuesday citing the situation workers find themselves in as a “catastrophe”, placing the blame squarely on Orsmond’s shoulders.

Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Majola, said: “We believe that he is responsible for the grounding because the reasons stated by SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) are very serious.

This is a very abnormal situation and our picketing was done in the name of saving the airline which means he must be removed.

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“Under his watch we have witnessed the decline of the airline to a shadow of its former glory.

“We have witnessed the haemorrhaging of jobs in the name of cost-cutting.

“The cost-cutting measures have resulted in an overworked, underpaid and understaffed workforce that spells disaster for an airline with a history as rich Comair,” said Majola.

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Orsmond said: “Our focus is to have our Air Operators’ Certificate reinstated so our scheduled operations can resume.

“This is in the best interests of our employees, the flying public and the aviation sector.

“We are immensely grateful for the support the unions are providing in helping to achieve this.”

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Sacaa says the suspension follows a visit by the authority to Comair to investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by Kulula.com and BA Comair.

Since then, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said she was “concerned at the increase in airfares on domestic routes” following Sacaa’s announcement and also further expressed concern for the grounding of flights which the tourism industry could ill-afford.

“However, our main concern is the effect this will have on greater tourism and the entire hospitality value chain, but not at the expense of air travel safety.

“I would like the issues between Comair and Sacaa to be resolved soon, as the tourism industry cannot afford any further discouragements,” said Sisulu.

Meanwhile, while stranded passengers scurried for last-minute bookings on alternate flights, low cost airline, FlySafair, denied hiking their prices following the announcement of Comair’s indefinite suspension.

FlySafair has been accused of sky-rocketing their prices due to Comair’s Air Operation Certificate (AOC) being indefinitely suspended “pending the operator addressing all the findings”, communicated by the regulator at the weekend.

FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon, said while they have availed a spare aircraft to accommodate stranded passengers, the more expensive tickets are as result of passengers making bookings for last minute seats.

“Often people operate under the perception that we fly an aircraft somewhere and then it sort of waits for the next opportunity to fly somewhere else, which isn’t true for low cost carriers…

“What we did have is a spare aircraft and so we managed to squeeze in about five additional return flights over the weekend – with the risk that we didn’t have a backup – but at least that helped some people…

“Unfortunately accusations of us hiking prices always happen when other carriers are grounded which is a reality we’ve had to face a few times in recent years.

“We all know that the first seats on a flight sell at a loss and that seats get incrementally more expensive as the aircraft fill up.

“Unfortunately when you’re looking to purchase last minute seats, they’re usually the last seats on the aircraft and usually the most expensive ones,” said Gordon.

Meanwhile Sacaa spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said they were still working with Comair to iron out issues about the grounding of its flights and a full team has been dedicated “to assess and review the evidence as it gets submitted”.

“The Comair Team is working with the Sacaa to ensure the closure of findings.

“We wish to give them the time and space without undue pressure until the matter is speedily resolved,” said Gwebu.

Sacaa sought to confirm Comair’s compliance with applicable Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs).

The inspection was also aimed at reviewing Comair’s quality control management system (QC) and safety management systems (SMS) to establish compliance related to reporting, analysis and follow-up on occurrences, and corrective action plans to prevent recurrence.

The National Consumer Commission did not respond to the questions by deadline.

Cape Times

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