Kulula.com owner expects airline to only return to the skies in October, November

South Africa’s airline industry looks set to remain in crisis territory for the rest of the year with Comair, the owner of kulula.com and the local operator for British Airways, now expecting to only resume operations in either October or November.

The airline has not been in operation since March 17, and won’t start operating on Friday when government moves to Level 4 of the lockdown aimed at safeguarding the country from the global coronavirus pandemic.

Under the state’s plans to gradually reopen the economy, restricted air travel will only commence at Level 3, full domestic air travel at Level 2 and regional and international air travel at Level 1.

JSE-listed Comair is lobbying the state for "special aid" through industry initiatives, it said in stock exchange statement on Thursday. Government, through the Department of Public Enterprises, is currently focussed on a mad scramble to secure the future of flag carrier South African Airways, which has been under business rescue since December last year.

Comair, which was struggling heading into the lockdown period and in January appointed new directors to its board, said it has started negotiations with the banking industry for the purpose of securing bridging finance.

While admitting to experiencing financial headwinds before the outbreak of pandemic, Comair said that the five week lockdown had "caused the situation to rapidly deteriorate to a point where the Company finds itself in a very difficult financial position."

For the interim results to end December, Comair made an operating loss of R562 million. Its shares have plunged just under 80% over the past five years.