Skip to content

British Airways affiliate in South Africa to enter liquidation

June 11, 2022
5 min read
Comair British Airways plane. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Comair, which operates a low-cost airline and flies as a regional subsidiary of British Airways, said it’s entering liquidation procedures, which could mean far fewer options for air travel in southern Africa.

The Johannesburg-based carrier made the announcement Thursday, more than a week after halting operations due to lack of funding.

Comair is a regional operator of British Airways flights, and it also operates its own low-cost brand, kulula.com.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The move comes more than two years after Comair entered what’s known as "business rescue" procedures. In South Africa, this is when a third party essentially takes control of a company in an effort to salvage the business in the midst of financial distress.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Comair officials called it an “extremely sad day for the company, its employees, its customers and South African aviation” in the Thursday announcement.

Although this will have a major impact on flights in South Africa and the surrounding region, it will not disrupt mainline British Airways flights between South Africa and London, a British Airways spokesperson told TPG Friday.

Comair flight. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

A confluence of factors

Comair flights have been grounded since May 31, when airline officials said they “had no choice” but to voluntarily suspend operations due to lack of funds.

The move affected both British Airways flights operated by Comair as well as kulula.com flights. As part of the suspension of operations, British Airways and kulula.com also suspended ticket sales on Comair-operated flights.

The carrier had been in business rescue proceedings since spring 2020; the company said “unforeseen headwinds,” including COVID-19 lockdowns and high fuel prices, had a “material negative impact” on the business.

Comair also said it was negatively affected by a temporary grounding of its flights back in March of this year, when TPG reported South African aviation officials revoked the carrier’s air operating certificate, citing safety concerns. Government officials later allowed Comair flights to return to the sky.

Even as Comair grounded its flights at the end of May, CEO Glenn Orsmond said the company was “inherently a viable business,” and it was on track to carry more than 4 million passengers this year. Without the necessary funding in place though, it appears that will not happen.

Related: 3 ways to visit Johannesburg on points and miles

Immediate impact on travelers

The immediate impact of this decision to halt operations is, of course, flight cancellations.

Passengers booked on affected British Airways flights operated by Comair through Sunday have the option to rebook to Johannesburg carrier Airlink at no cost, Comair said. Passengers on affected British Airways flights can get help through the airline’s International Contact Center.

British Airways told TPG it's contacting travelers booked on Comair-operated flights to offer refund and rebooking options — including on flights operated by other airlines.

Passengers on British Airways flights will also have access to the airline’s "Book with Confidence" policy, since that flexibility extends to existing reservations made before June 8.

When you pull up the kulula.com website, you see a notice that brings you to an explanation of the pending liquidation. The notice says customers with upcoming bookings or those owed refunds “will now become creditors” of the company.

(Screenshot from kulula.com)

Related: Here’s what to do if your flight is canceled or delayed

Long-term impact on travelers

While inconvenient for passengers looking to make alternative travel plans or get refunds, the move will also significantly trim the number of seats available on flights within South Africa and the region.

Between its British Airways and kulula.com flights, Comair operated more than two dozen Boeing 737 aircraft, including 23 Boeing 737-800 jets and three 737-400 planes.

Just the kulula.com route map alone shows the number of key southern Africa routes the carrier served.

(Screenshot from kulula.com)

Again, the longer British Airways international flights between Cape Town, Johannesburg and London will not be disrupted because they are operated by the main carrier, not Comair.

(Screenshot from Comair)

Related: Returning to South Africa in 2022

Bottom line

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a combination of shutdowns and rising fuel prices appears to have been too much for Comair to handle. The airline — which was already dealing with a fragile economic situation in the spring of 2020 — now is now headed for liquidation.

As customers scramble to make alternative plans in the short term, the move will put a damper on air travel in the region for the foreseeable future.

Featured image by Comair British Airways plane. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases