CAPE TOWN--Last week South Africa’s Comair selected Lufthansa Technik (LHT) as a service partner for its Boeing 737 MAX 8s, as opposed to long-time maintenance provider South African Airways (SAA). In terms of this new agreement, LHT will provide engineering, planning, line maintenance and component support including consumables and expendables supply for Comair’s future Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet. The carrier will take delivery of the first two of eight 737 Max 8 aircraft in January 2019.
Erik Venter, Comair CEO, explains: “We decided to partner with Lufthansa Technik because of its familiarity and expertise with the specific aircraft type and the potential operational efficiencies to be gained in terms of maintenance turnaround time.”
This contract is a significant milestone for the expansion of LHT in South Africa and beyond. Andreas Liagos, LHT corporate key account manager, says the German MRO has been present in Africa and especially in South Africa for many years. “However, in the last few years and with this significant contract we look forward to expanding our presence in this important but challenging market.”
It is not clear exactly where maintenance will be conducted, but OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, is the most likely venue. Venter says “work is underway to secure facilities, however no final decision has been reached.” Liagos confirms that the respective services will be conducted locally.
Comair still has confidence in SAAT as its current fleet of 26 Boeing aircraft (18 owned and eight on lease), which operate under its low-cost carrier Kulula and its franchise agreement with British Airways, will be maintained under an existing agreement with the South African MRO.
South African aviation is in turmoil at the moment with Pravin Gordhan, public enterprises minister, suggesting a merger of the country’s three struggling airlines: SAA, South African Express (grounded last week by the South African aviation authority) and Mango Airlines. How does Comair manage to keep its head above water in such a tough aviation environment? Venter says: “By keeping rigorous control on costs, constantly identifying and leveraging efficiencies across the business and diversifying into analogous businesses.”