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Competition Commission warns airlines against exploiting travellers with unfair price increases

The Competition Commission has appealed to airlines to assist stranded travellers by increasing their capacity to fill the void created by the grounding of British Airways and Kulula.com. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The Competition Commission has appealed to airlines to assist stranded travellers by increasing their capacity to fill the void created by the grounding of British Airways and Kulula.com. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 16, 2022

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Pretoria – The Competition Commission has warned airlines against exploiting the thousands of travellers who have been inconvenienced by the grounding of Comair which operates British Airways and Kulula.com in South Africa.

“It has now emerged that there are reports and complaints of large increases in price for seats on the remaining airlines some even quoting R5 000 single flight ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town,” said the Commission’s spokesperson Sipho Ngwema.

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“Whilst the Commission understands that the removal of airlines does certainly have an impact on the airfares, the situation that stranded passengers find themselves in, should not be unduly exploited by other airlines.”

On Saturday, the South African Civil Aviation Authority announced that it had suspended, with immediate effect, the Air Operator Certificate of Comair PTY Ltd, with its subsidiaries Kulula.com and the British Airways.

The Competition Commission has encouraged all airlines to put more capacity into the market, where possible, until the Comair situation has been resolved in order to assist stranded passengers at “more moderate” prices.

“In addition, where the Commission finds that airlines have actively removed seats from low fare buckets and allocated them to higher priced fare buckets or introduced new much higher fare buckets on popular routes, then the Commission may consider this an act of price gouging designed to deliberately exploit the current situation,” Ngwema said.

He said the Commission will also be engaging airlines over the next few days to establish the plans they have in place to address the situation, and to also put forward complaints from travellers about prices in the market.

“The Commission wishes to warn airlines will not hesitate to act swiftly and decisively if there’s evidence of price gouging,” Ngwema said.

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On Tuesday, dismayed Comair passengers continued to express dismay at the grounding of all flights operated by Kulula and British Airways due to the safety concerns.

Sharing more bad news with customers, Kulula stated that flights for Tuesday have also been suspended “until such time as the CAA have had time to review and satisfy themselves that the items they have raised are closed.”

Comair’s competitor, low-cost airline FlySafair, has tried to ease the burden by adding an additional 10 flights over the weekend.

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