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FlySafair to add new routes across Africa after rival’s collapse

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SOUTH African airline FlySafair plans to add at least ten new routes across sub-Saharan Africa to take advantage of a gap in the market left by the collapse of domestic rival Comair.

The closely held carrier will fly to capital cities such as Nairobi, Lusaka and Maputo alongside holiday destinations including Victoria Falls and Zanzibar, according to a statement Tuesday. The company will add an initial five new planes to the fleet by early 2023, it said, without specifying a model.

Comair, the South African partner of British Airways and owner of low-cost carrier Kulula, applied for liquidation earlier this month after running out of funds. The group accounted for 40% of domestic air trips in South Africa and a number of international routes.

“The market has lost about 9 000 seats a week,” Kirby Gordon, chief marketing officer at FlySafair, said in the statement. Adding new planes “will help to plug this gap.”

Experts have warned that the closure of Comair will have a marked effect on South Africa  – both in the transport and hospitality sectors.

Tourism Business Council South Africa chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the drop in flight capacity will lead to increased bottlenecks as fewer people opt to fly domestically and instead opt to drive.

These capacity issues will extend to the domestic airlines which are still operating in South Africa, with these groups needing regulatory approval from the Air Serving Council and government to increase the number of flights and operate flights to new destinations, he said.

Tshivhengwa also warned that the closure of Comair will lead to a general increase in domestic flight costs in South Africa as existing demand has not dissipated.

This was echoed by John Loos, property sector strategist at FNB, who noted that the demise of Comair has restricted the availability of air travel in recent weeks, which may be having a negative impact on air travel and thus on hotel demand too.

Comair, which operates Kulula.com and is the domestic partner for British Airways in South Africa, cancelled all flights on 1 June, less than three months after being grounded by the regulator over a series of safety incidents that required diversions and emergency landings.

With additional reporting by BLOOMBERG

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