Comair posts profit despite South African challenges

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South Africa's Comair has posted a "small, but noteworthy" headline profit of 18 million rand ($2.19 million) for the 12 months to 30 June 2012.

Revenues rose 16% to 4.16 billion rand at the British Airways franchise, while operating costs were up 20% to 3.97 billion rand - largely due to a 50% increase in average jet fuel prices.

Higher fuel costs prompted Comair and joint venture partner Solenta Aviation to close down its unprofitable Nelspruit and Maputo routes, chief executive Erik Venter says.

He voices concern about the domestic South African market, noting the recent collapse of Velvet Sky and the move by 1time Airline to enter business rescue protection.

"The sustained high fuel price and weak global economy created pressure from which few airlines could escape unscathed," Venter says.

But in spite of the challenging environment, the chief executive rebukes national carrier South African Airways for its reliance on government coffers.

"Our state-owned competitors and their continuous request for government funding pose a serious challenge to our capital intensive industry, where it is necessary for private airlines to build equity through retained profits," Venter says.

"SAA's expectation of further capital injection creates a reliance that undermines rational commercial behaviour. Competition is good, but the playing fields in South Africa remain unlevel."