Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has abandoned plans to merge with Safair just weeks ahead of a planned hearing before South Africa’s Competition Commission (CC) to appeal an earlier decision to block the tie-up.

Under the proposed deal announced in November last year, Airlink would have secured control of Safair Operations whose units include ACMI/charter specialist Safair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) and the FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) budget carrier brand. In return, Safair's shareholder, Ireland-based ASL Aviation Holdings, would have gained a minority stake in Airlink Group. Safair and FlySafair would have continued to operate separately under their unique brands while Airlink’s existing South African Airways franchise partnership was to have continued as before.

In its February ruling, the regulator said the merger would remove a competitor to Airlink on a number of domestic South African routes to the potential detriment of consumers. Airlink and Safair both appealed the decision with a hearing set to have been heard in late November.

However, in a statement to the South African press on Friday, October 26, Airlink and Safair had agreed not to pursue a proposed tie-up and had thus withdrawn their joint application for a Competition Tribunal hearing. The two cited protracted local regulatory processes and commercial considerations for the move.

"It’s a pity we were unable to go ahead, but the window of opportunity has closed on what promised to be the creation of a robust and profitable South African airline group, comprising two distinct operations – Airlink’s Southern African regional business and the FlySafair low-cost South African domestic business,” Rodger Foster, Airlink CEO and Managing Director, said in a statement to Tourism Update.

“While we are disappointed that the deal will no longer go ahead, we remain very positive about our business and several commercial opportunities that may exist between the two airlines that could be of great value to both our growing businesses,” Elmar Conradie, Safair Operations CEO, added.