Comair needs fresh funding by year end to return to skies Operator of local BA flights was bailed out during pandemic
Comair Ltd., the South African airline that’s halted all flights due to a lack of funds, is in talks with one financial firm about a rescue deal by year end.
The carrier’s administrators including Richard Ferguson are negotiating with an international backer with a presence in South Africa, he said in an interview on Wednesday, declining to name for firm. Comair’s existing lenders and investors — a group of wealthy individuals who bailed out the airline in 2020 — aren’t prepared to put in more funds, he said.
Comair operates the low-cost Kulula airline and local flights by IAG SA-owned British Airways, and accounts for 40% of the South African market. The firm cancelled all flights on Tuesday night, less than three months after being grounded by the regulator over a series of safety incidents that required diversions and emergency landings.
“The grounding by the Civil Aviation Authority was problematic financially and reputationally,” Ferguson said. Other reasons for the funding squeeze include pandemic era lockdowns and travel bans alongside rising fuel prices, he said.
The move came ahead of a long weekend in South Africa, causing chaos at airports and spiralling ticket prices as travelers scrambled for replacements.
Comair’s current owners include Rodney Sacks and Hilton Scholsberg, who founded the Monster brand of energy drinks. They — alongside other individual backers — rescued the airline when its fleet was grounded during the coronavirus pandemic. That deal diluted previous owners including BA and industrial conglomerate Bidvest Group Ltd. to less than 1% of the firm, Ferguson said.
Comair operates a fleet of 26 Boeing Co. jets, mostly 737-800s, according to the website.