Comair selects ATC Lasham as second MRO supplier after SAA

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South Africa's Comair has selected UK-based MRO firm ATC Lasham as its second heavy airframe maintenance supplier after SAA Technical.

Comair joint CEO Gidon Novick says the carrier has committed to sending this year two 737-300/400s to ATC Lasham for d-checks. He says additional aircraft could be sent to the UK for maintenance and Comair is also looking at using a potential new MRO shop in South Africa as it aims to diversify its use of MRO companies.

Comair has been using SAA Technical, which is the maintenance unit of Comair competitor South African Airways, for all its maintenance. In 2007, SAA Technical announced it had secured from Comair a five-year 737 maintenance contract worth more than R500 million ($72 million).

Novick says even when factoring in the ferrying costs from South Africa to the UK, ATC Lasham is more cost effective than SAA Technical.

"SAA obviously wants to keep all our business [but] they don't have the guarantee of our business going forward," Novick tells ATI and Flightglobal. "It's important for us to have an alternative."

Comair does not have any in-house maintenance operations and even outsources line maintenance. Novick says the carrier has no interest in setting up its own MRO unit but would potentially be interested in signing up as the launch and anchor customer if a new MRO shop opens in South Africa. Comair is currently in talks with such a potential new shop but Novick declines to provide details as "it's not a done deal".

Comair would welcome a new MRO supplier in South Africa as "it's not a very competitive market," Novick says. "SAA Technical is the only sustentative supplier in the market."

Comair currently operates a fleet of about 20 Boeing 737s, primarily Classics but last year it placed into service the first three of at least 13 Next Generation 737s. The airline operates a British Airways franchise in the domestic and intra-African markets and also operates a low-cost unit under the kulula.com brand.