The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has recently grounded Kulula.com and British Airways, both of which operated by Comair, for the next 24 hours. 

Comair, a South African airline that operates domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee, announced today that its Kulula and British Airways flights have been suspended for a 24 hour period. 

A contentious grounding

In a statement on its website and in a Twitter thread, Comair explained the contentious suspension.

Comair regrets that our flights have been suspended by the CAA for 24 hours. This will affect both British Airways (operated by Comair). Our Executive Team are engaging with the CAA on an urgent basis. Comair believes there is no justification for the suspension.

The airline continued, apologising for the inconvenience and stressed utmost dedication to “restore our operations as soon as possible”. 

Passengers with tickets booked for 12 March were advised to not travel unless they are able to make a booking on an alternate carrier. 

In a response to a question asked on Twitter regarding the reasoning behind the suspension, Kulula stated that they cannot disclose such information but categorised the suspension again as “unjustified”. 

The 24-hour grounding can be assumed as a precautionary suspension to quell safety concerns around Comair planes. The regulator, the SACAA, has stated that Comair has to prove its planes are safe or risk being grounded indefinitely. 

The SACAA said in a statement that the operator, Comair, must demonstrate to them that “the risk and safety management systems are effective in managing potential hazards”. 

Previous safety concerns

Prior to this decision, there have been several incidences that reasonably puts the safety of kulula.com and British Airways aircraft operating to and from South Africa in question.

On 10 February, shortly after takeoff, one of two engines failed on a Kulula Boeing 737-800. The flight was due to land in Cape Town but landed safely at OR Tambo after the pilot issued a Mayday call.

10 days later, a British Airways flight had to make an emergency landing at King Phalo Airport in East London shortly after it had taken off for Johannesburg. This was later found to be because the landing gear had failed to retract. 

And only last week, another Kulula flight diverted to OR Tambo from Lanseria after an “engine-related” issue. 

The SACAA, in light of these incidents, stated that further investigation was necessary “in the interest of safety”. 

Do you think the SACAA has made the right call? Let us know.

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