Comair proposes to buy Durban International Airport

Johannesburg, 12 October 2009: Comair Limited, operator of British Airways in South Africa and kulula, has approached the Minister of Transport to express interest in acquiring the existing Durban International Airport.

Gidon Novick, Joint CEO of Comair, said that the company had submitted a letter to the Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele, stating that Comair, together with an unnamed airport operator, would be interested in tendering to acquire the airport prior to ACSA opening the new La Mercy Airport, expected to be in May 2010.

“Our enquiry letter has been acknowledged by both the Transport and Finance ministers’ offices, but we have not received an indication on next steps yet,” said Novick. “In a similar vein to what we’ve done at Lanseria airport, where we operate kulula flights from an alternative commercial airport in Gauteng, we want to do the same at Durban International. We believe that competition between multiple airports in Durban will be very positive for the travelling public, and will result in lower airport charges and airfares. The model of low cost airlines using secondary airports is proven internationally, as evidenced by the successful strategies of Ryanair and EasyJet in the UK.

“The Kwa-Zulu Natal coast consists of about 150km of populated urban areas, and with the new La Mercy airport servicing the north coast, we could service the city of Durban and the south coast. Two airports in the greater Durban area would mean that travellers would have a choice of which airport to use, depending on their proximity and their preferred destination,” he added.

In the UK, BAA Airports currently owns Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports. However, the regulator there has indicated that this is anti-competitive, and BAA will need to sell one. “So from a competitive point of view, a secondary airport makes sense here too,” he concluded.