FlySafair on the runway

A new low-cost airline has received the nod to take to the skies after months of legal wrangling

But FlySafair is not taking off immediately. The airline’s website yesterday promised to keep passengers in the loop and its CEO, Dave Andrew, said that the launch would take some time.

“We only received our new licence on March 31 and we are evaluating how long it will take to ramp up operations, and also the impact of the travel seasons on launch dates,” said Andrew.

Competitor Comair, which operates Kulula.com, and was one of the founders of airline 1Time, now in liquidation, objected last year to FlySafair being granted a licence, saying that the airline was above the legal limit of 25% foreign ownership.

Comair CEO Erik Venter also claimed that FlySafair was a “front” and that granting it a licence would allow a foreign company to enter the South African market.

FlySafair has “got rid of the shareholding that caused the problems”, it said yesterday.

The airline says it has concluded the largest employee share ownership scheme in the South African aviation industry, giving its local employees a 25.14% stake in the company. Whether their shares will pay dividends remains to be seen.

The domestic airspace has been a tough environment for low-cost airlines of late.

Despite public campaigns, 1time became the latest victim in the industry when it filed for liquidation 18 months ago.

Earlier in that year Velvet Sky folded and taxi association Santaco’s proposed airline never got off the ground.

Andrew claims that FlySafair’s entry into the market will drive down average ticket prices, which have risen sharply since 1Time’s liquidation.

FlySafair will start with flights on a Boeing 737-400, which has 165 seats.

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