Comair (South Africa)

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IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1943 (as Commercial Air Services)
Ceased operations9 June 2022 (2022-06-09)[1]
HubsOR Tambo International Airport
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programExecutive Club/Avios (when operating for British Airways)
AllianceOneworld (when operating for British Airways)
Fleet size20
HeadquartersKempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa
Key people
  • Glenn Orsmond (CEO)
  • Kirsten King (CFO)
RevenueDecrease ZAR 5.45 billion (2020)
ProfitDecrease ZAR −2.09 billion (2020)

Comair Limited was[1] an airline based in South Africa that operated scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee (and an affiliate member of the Oneworld airline alliance). It also operated as a low-cost carrier under its own brand. Its main base was OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, while focus cities were Cape Town, flying from Cape Town International Airport and Durban, King Shaka International Airport. Its headquarters were near OR Tambo in the Bonaero Park area of Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.[2]


Comair Douglas DC-3 in 1973

The idea for the airline came out of discussion of two second world war pilots based in Egypt, J.M.S. Martin and A.L. Zoubert, they gained another partner Leon Zimmerman and Commercial Air Services was formed in 1943 on their return to South Africa.[3] The company began charter operations on 15 June 1946 using Fairchild F-24 Argus and Douglas DC-3 aircraft.[4] Scheduled services between Rand Airport, Johannesburg and Durban began on 1 July 1948, using a Cessna 195.[5]

In 1978, Donald (Dave) Novick negotiated a management buyout of Comair's aviation assets.[6] A lengthy legal battle ensued between Novick and the Pickard Group. On 5 June 1978, Justice George Colman rendered a 291-page document in favour of Novick. In doing so, Colman established 12 precedents in South African corporate law; the litigation is now considered to be a landmark case.[citation needed]

When Novick joined Comair in 1961, the company had some 50 employees and operated two Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Under his direction, the company expanded its fleet into jet aircraft after the de-regulation of South African airline routes in 1991.

Novick pioneered a strong relationship with British Airways plc and a partnership through a franchise arrangement. British Airways later took a shareholding in Comair.[citation needed].

In 2001 was established, by co-founders Gidon Novick and Erik Venter, as the first low-cost airline in South Africa. The airline maintained its lead in this segment of the market, serving leisure business customers. As part of a R 3.5-billion[7] investment in fleet upgrade, Comair ordered eight Boeing 737-800s to update its fleet in 2013.[8]

In March 2014, Comair announced a R 9-billion order for eight Boeing 737 MAX. The aircraft were due to be delivered from 2019 to 2022.[9]

The government of the British Overseas Territories Saint Helena and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) announced in March 2015 that it had reached agreement with Comair for the provision of weekly air services from Johannesburg, to commence in 2016, when the Atlantic island's airport was due to open for revenue service.[10] Comair withdrew from the agreement before the introduction of scheduled flights, due to severe wind shear on the initial test flights. A scheduled service provided by Airlink started in 2017.[11]

In August 2016, Imperial Air Cargo, a cargo airline in which Comair owned a 30 percent stake, started operations.

The company entered into voluntary business rescue proceedings on 5 May 2020, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic[12] Operations were suspended on 31 May 2022.[13] On 9 June 2022 the business rescue practitioners announced that there was no reasonable prospect of rescue and that the company be placed into liquidation.[1]

Corporate affairs[edit]

Ownership and structure[edit]

Comair Limited was a public company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE: COM),[14] but after going into business rescue on 5 May 2020, the company was delisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 7 April 2021; this gave it access to ZAR100 million rand (USD6.8 million) under the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme put in place between the South African Reserve Bank and large commercial banks.[15]

The group had a number of subsidiary activities, including Comair Catering Proprietary Limited, trading under the Food Directions brand, that provided on-board catering and retail services to the group’s flights, and health and other food products to South African retailers,[14] and also had a 56% shareholding in The Highly Nutritious Food Company Proprietary Limited, trading as Eatrite, that distributes its products to retailers in South Africa.[14]

Business trends[edit]

The published key trends for the Comair group (which includes activities under the British Airways and brands) are shown below, as at years ending 30 June.

Comair entered into voluntary business rescue proceedings on 5 May 2020, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and no annual accounts for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2020 have therefore been published. The figures for 2020 shown below are from the Management Accounts set out in the Business Rescue Plan:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Turnover (R m) 3,049 3,010 3,588 4,163 5,387 5,903 5,891 5,960 6,064 6,537 7,126 5,448
Profit before tax (EBT) (R m) 114 124 106 11 331 374 301 295 435 471 1,103 −2,091
Profit after tax (R m) 219 193 297 326 897 −1,647
Number of employees 1,782 1,941 1,953 1,853 1,912 2,026 2,088 2,100 2,121 2,206 2,193
Number of passengers (m) 5.2 5.1 5.4 5.5 5.8 6.0
Passenger load factor (%) 76 76 79
Number of aircraft (at year end) 23 25 24 24 27 26 25 25 26 26 25
Notes/sources [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [14] [12]


The Group’s headquarters were based at 1 Marignane Drive, Bonaero Park, Kempton Park.[14]


British Airways franchisee[edit]

Logo used operated by Comair under the franchise agreement with British Airways
Comair Boeing 737-400
in British Airways livery
Comair Boeing 737-800
in British Airways livery

Comair offered flights to and from the following destinations, operating under the British Airways brand:[26]

South Africa

Comair offered flights to and from the following destinations, operating under the brand:[26]

South Africa


Comair codeshared with the following airlines:[27]


As of December 2021, Comair fleet included the following aircraft operated as British Airways franchise:[28]

Comair Fleet
Aircraft Total Orders Passengers[29] Notes
C Y Total
Boeing 737-400 2 18 126 144
Boeing 737-800 10 24 138 162
Total 12

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • On 12 October 1982, Douglas C-47A ZS-EJK was written off when it crashed into a mountain near Graskop in the Eastern Transvaal,[30] 36 nautical miles (67 km) from Hoedspruit when attempting to divert to that airport. The weather was instrument meteorological conditions. All 30 people on board survived.[31]
  • On 1 March 1988, Comair Flight 206, an Embraer 110 Bandeirante, crashed in Johannesburg, killing all 17 occupants.[32][33] One source suggests that this incident was caused by an explosive device, carried by a passenger employed as a mineworker who had recently taken out a substantial insurance policy.[33]
  • On 26 October 2015, Comair Flight BA6234 (ZS-OAA), a Boeing 737-400 operated by Comair on behalf of British Airways, crashed and was damaged beyond repair at OR Tambo International Airport. The crash was suspected to be caused by an early flare and fast touch down causing the left landing gear to collapse. No persons on board were killed or injured [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Staff Writer. "Comair goes under – with no prospect of rescue". Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  2. ^ "Contact Us Archived 18 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine." Comair. Retrieved 30 September 2009. "Comair Limited Physical address: Cnr Atlas Road and Marignane Drive Bonaero Park 1619 South Africa"
  3. ^ Ken Fuller (June 2003). "Down Memory Lane - Rand Airport - The Early Years after World War Two". SAA Museum Society.
  4. ^ "Commercial Air Services". Air History. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  5. ^ Van Dyke, Capt Donald L (2008). Fortune Favours the Bold: An African Aviation Odyssey. Xlibris. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-4363-9314-0.
  6. ^ Pretorius, J. T. (1999). Hahlo's South African Company Law Through the Cases: A Source Book : a Collection of Cases on Company Law, with Explanatory Notes and Comments. ISBN 9780702151422.
  7. ^ "Comair – British Airways (operated by Comair) celebrates first of its new fleet". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Comair orders 737-800". Archived from the original on 22 April 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Does Comair have eyes on Africa expansion?". News24. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  10. ^ "[1]"
  11. ^ St Helena Government. Air Services to St Helena and Ascension Island.
  12. ^ a b "Comair Limited (In Business Rescue) Management Accounts" (PDF). 2 September 2020. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Comair - Comair suspends flights pending receipt of funding". Archived from the original on 19 June 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Comair Limited Annual Report 2019" (PDF). 16 September 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  15. ^ "South Africa's Comair seeks new financial support". 14 July 2021. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  16. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2009" (PDF). 14 September 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2010" (PDF). 13 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  18. ^ "Comair Limited Integrated Annual Report 2011" (PDF). 12 September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  19. ^ "Comair Limited Integrated Annual Report 2012" (PDF). 11 September 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  20. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2013" (PDF).
  21. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2014" (PDF).
  22. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2015" (PDF).
  23. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2016" (PDF). 13 September 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2017" (PDF). 11 September 2017. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  25. ^ "Comair Limited Annual Report 2018" (PDF). 17 September 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  26. ^ a b "Route Network". Comair. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  27. ^ "Profile on Comair (South Africa)". CAPA. Centre for Aviation. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Login required".
  29. ^ Comair Aircraft configurations
  30. ^ "C/N 19484". The Dakota Association of South Africa. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  31. ^ "ZS-EJK Accident report". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  32. ^ "Accident Synopsis » 03011988[usurped],"
  33. ^ a b Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Embraer EMB-110P1 Bandeirante ZS-LGP Germiston, c. 13 km SW of Johannesburg International Airport (JNB'". Retrieved 31 August 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Comair Limited at Wikimedia Commons