South Africa : Regulator warns of flight price hikes in South Africa
- 17 March 2022 / News / 428 / Fares RAHAHLIA
The Competition Commission has cautioned airlines against price gouging after the South African Civil Aviation Authority announced the permanent grounding of Comair, and its subsidiaries Kulula.com and British Airways.
This suspension has meant that significant airline seat capacity had been removed from the market and that would undoubtedly result in travellers having to scramble up the remaining tickets in higher fare buckets.
“It has now emerged that there are reports and complaints of large increases in price for seats on the remaining airlines some even quoting R5,000 for a single flight ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town,” the Commission said.
“Whilst the Commission understands that the removal of airlines does certainly have an impact on the airfares, the situation that stranded passengers find themselves in should not be unduly exploited by other airlines.”
The Commission has encouraged all airlines to put more capacity into the market where possible until the Comair situation has been resolved in order to assist stranded passengers at more moderate prices.
In addition, where the Commission finds that airlines have actively removed seats from low fare buckets and allocated them to higher-priced fare buckets or introduced new much higher fare buckets on popular routes, then it may consider this an act of price gouging designed to deliberately exploit the current situation, it said.
“The Commission will also be engaging airlines over the next few days to establish what plans they have in place to address the current situation and any complaints from travellers about prices in the market.
“The Commission wishes to warn airlines will not hesitate to act swiftly and decisively if there’s evidence of price gouging.”
On Sunday (13 March), South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) announced it has indefinitely suspended Comair flights in South Africa due to safety concerns.
SACAA confirmed the suspension would continue until its concerns had been adequately addressed in a statement on Sunday morning (13 March). It cited several instances in recent weeks which had raised safety concerns.
“The suspension follows the visit by the SACAA to the operator to investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by Kulula.com and BA Comair. The SACAA sought to confirm Comair’s compliance with applicable Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs).
“The inspection was also aimed at reviewing Comair’s quality control management system (QC) and safety management systems (SMS) to establish compliance related to reporting, analysis and follow-up on occurrences, and corrective action plans to prevent a recurrence.”
SACAA said it is fully committed to ensuring that Comair is back in the air and has dedicated a full team to assess and review the evidence as it gets submitted.
“The commitment to safety, in this case, supersedes any other need and this is to ensure that South Africa maintains its safety record of having zero fatal airline accidents in over thirty years on South African soil. The lives of our aviation personnel and the users of civil aviation services is paramount, and it is a responsibility the regulator does not take lightly.”
South African Airways responded to the SACAA decision saying it would not increase fares because of Comair’s temporary grounding.
The airline has also deployed bigger aircraft on some Durban and Cape Town flights and will continue to do so until the current situation stabilises, it said.
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