British Airways flights to South Africa are now blocked indefinitely for security reasons

British Airways flights operated by South African franchisee Comair have been suspended indefinitely after an initial 24-hour grounding that began on Saturday. South Africa’s aviation safety regulator said it was working on the evidence provided by Comair with the aim of getting flights restarted as soon as possible.

The Civil Aviation Authority on Saturday revoked Comair’s air operator certificate after launching an investigation into a series of recent in-flight emergencies affecting British Airways-branded flights and Comair’s low-cost subsidiary, Kulula.


The investigation resulted in a single Level 1 safety finding, which automatically means the immediate revocation of an airline’s air operator certificate. Comair provided evidence to the CAA late Saturday night and after reviewing the documents overnight, the security team withdrew the Level 1 finding at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

Comair, however, did not provide the final documents requested until 7:30 a.m. Sunday, so the CAA decided to keep the airline on the ground while it reviews the remaining evidence and decides whether Comair has done enough to address a range of less serious security issues.

“SACAA is fully committed to getting the operator back in the air and has dedicated a full team to assess and review evidence as it is submitted, the regulator said in a statement.

“The commitment to safety in this case supersedes any other need and it is to ensure that South Africa maintains its safety record of having ZERO fatal air accidents in over thirty years on southern soil. African.”

Comair hoped to resume flights on Sunday at noon. Comair chief executive Glenn Orsmond said the indefinite grounding was a “crushing blow” to the South African aviation industry.

Orsmond estimated that the decision effectively wiped out 40% of South Africa’s domestic airline capacity.

“The implications for the aviation industry and the country are significant if the suspension were to continue for any length of time,” Orsmond said Sunday.

“Our priority now is to help stranded passengers. We have chartered two planes to help vulnerable passengers and those most in need of travel.”

A week ago a Kulula flight was forced to divert due to “engine problems”, while two weeks ago a British Airways-branded plane was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff from east London after the landing gear failed to retract.

Last month, another Kulula plane made an emergency landing after suffering engine failure shortly after takeoff.

Comair is a franchise partner of British Airways and operates domestic flights through South Africa and some regional services. Kulula is Comair’s low-cost brand and operates domestic services.

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Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the Middle East’s most important airline and flew throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centered stories. Always on the cutting edge, Matt’s knowledge, analysis and news coverage are often used by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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