Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has expressed concern over the grounding of all Comair flights, saying it will have a negative effect on domestic tourism.
Comair is responsible for up to 40% of the country’s air capacity.
“It comes at a bad time as families prepare for school holidays and some international holidaymakers prepare to spend their summer holidays in South Africa,” Sisulu said.
The tourism industry in South Africa, along with that of the rest of the world, has received a mortal blow during the pandemic. But officials had hoped that the increase in domestic travel would bring respite to the struggling tourism sector.
According to Sisulu, domestic travel contributed positively to demand during the Covid-19 period, driven by targeted campaigns and pricing in the local market.
“It was positive and helped create better understanding within the market and through this exposure propelled the market to diversify its offerings,” Sisulu said.
Comair announced on Tuesday that it was suspending all Kulula.com and British Airways flights it operates under a licensing agreement. British Airways (operated by Comair) and kulula.com ticket sales have also been suspended with immediate effect.
The flights were suspended due to airline funding issues.
Comair has advised customers not to travel to the airport unless they have other arrangements if their flights have been cancelled.
“Kulula.com customers on suspended flights have the option of obtaining a Travel Bank credit or can request a full refund of the value of their ticket,” reads a message on the website.
Travel Bank credit can be used by the passenger or another person. Affected customers can email [email protected]
“Comair’s business rescue practitioners have advised that the process of raising the necessary capital is underway and there is reason to believe funding can be secured,” the tourism department said in a statement.
Comair is convinced that this is only a temporary setback.
“Comair is inherently a viable business. We have two of the best airline brands in the country. We are on track to carry over 4 million passengers this year and generate R5.3 billion in revenue.
“We have excellent staff, a modern fleet, good sales and distribution channels and low operating costs, which is why we believe funding will be secured,” said airline CEO Glen. Osman.
Osman said flights would resume once funding is secured.
Meanwhile, Sisulu said global tourism was rebounding despite continued Covid restrictions and the effects of conflict in Ukraine.
However, the number of tourist arrivals has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“The pace of recovery is slow and uneven across regions of the world, and this is due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveler confidence,” Minister Sisulu concluded.
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