Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has filed an urgent application in a South African high court to prevent the country's Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) from suspending its domestic operators licence with effect from May 11.

The carrier said in a Johannesburg stock market filing that the interdict it is requesting stems from a 2014 complaint lodged with the ASLC by rival FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo). Then, FlySafair claimed that Comair had violated the country's Air Services Licensing Act by failing to apply for a license amendment in the wake of a share repurchase programme. In addition, the Safair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) subsidiary also claimed that Comair's foreign ownership and voting quota slightly exceeded the 25% cap prescribed under the Act.

However, owing to a combination of deferrals and a change in the ASLC's composition, a final decision on the matter was continuously postponed until this year. Though Comair was confident it would be found to be compliant, the ASLC eventually ruled that it had indeed breached the terms of the Air Services Licensing Act and was given until May 11 to comply following which its domestic operators licence would be temporarily revoked.

“The company has requested the ASLC to agree that it has not commenced suspension proceedings in accordance with the Act, and has requested the ASLC to agree not to take any further action against the Company pending the outcome of a review of the ASLC’s decisions,” Comair said. “The ASLC has failed to agree to the Company’s request. The Company has taken the precaution of launching an urgent application to interdict the ASLC from suspending the Company’s domestic license, pending the outcome of a review by a court of law.”

Comair Ltd operates a British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) franchise as well as budget carrier Kulula Air (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo).

Ironically, Comair, along with the now defunct SkyWise (SWZ, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), used the same complaint to successfully thwart FlySafair's original launch back in October 2013. Then, the two parties successfully petitioned a Pretoria High Court to revoke FlySafair's licence on the grounds of excess foreign ownership. The nascent LCC was forced to undertake a complete review of its shareholding before reapplying to the ASLC for a licence in 2014. It eventually launched operations in October of that year.