South Africa's Comair applies for London route rights

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British Airways’ South African franchise partner Comair, the parent of budget carrier Kulula, has applied for authority to start long-haul services to London.

Comair operates a fleet of Boeing 737s on regional flights within Africa as a BA franchise, and will switch to an all-737 fleet at its Kulula budget operation by the year-end when it phases out its Boeing MD-80s.

But in a short statement today Comair says it has applied to South Africa’s International Air Services Licensing Council for authority to start flights to London.

Comair joint CEO Gideon Novick says: “We believe that the London route would contribute positively to our already-extensive domestic and regional network and are preparing a very strong case for the licence application.”

The carrier says it will disclose further details of its long-haul intentions after receiving route authority, although it does say it is “simultaneously investigating various options to acquire widebody aircraft that would be required to operate the long-haul route”.

Comair earlier this year told ATI sister publication Airline Business it was looking at expanding its British Airways franchise to include long-haul services.

Four carriers currently operate between London and South Africa. Nationwide Airlines in 2003 became the second South African operator on the route, flying from Johannesburg to London Gatwick. Star Alliance carrier South African Airways already serves London Heathrow twice-daily from Johannesburg and daily from Cape Town.

From the UK side British Airways connects Heathrow to Johannesburg twice-daily and Cape Town daily, while Virgin Atlantic operates a daily service from Heathrow to Johannesburg.