South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has agreed to pay rival carrier Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) ZAR1.1 billion rand (USD78 million) to settle a longrunning anti-competition case.

The case pertained to SAA's system of "override incentive schemes" wherein between April 2000 and May 2001 as well as between June 2001 and March 2005, travel agents were paid "considerable sums of money" to book passengers on SAA rather than on rival airlines such as Comair and the defunct Nationwide. This, a South Gauteng high court agreed, had led to substantial foreclosure of rivals in South Africa's scheduled domestic air services market, causing Nationwide Airlines and Comair to suffer loss of profit.

Defunct Nationwide had been awarded ZAR104.6 million in damages plus interest in August 2016 for similar claims against SAA spanning the period June 2001 to March 2005 while Comair was itself awarded over ZAR1.1 billion in damages plus interest.

In March 2017, SAA appealed the Comair ruling to the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SASCA).

However, on Friday, February 16, Comair said it had now entered into a full and final settlement agreement with SAA which was made an order of SASCA.

In addition to withdrawing their appeal and cross-appeal currently pending before the court, Comair said SAA will pay it ZAR1,108,040,000 (USD‪78,718,134.25)‬ plus interest with disbursements to be made from February 28, 2019, through to July 28, 2022, or earlier should SAA elect to make payments earlier than agreed. In additional, SAA will pay Comair’s taxed legal costs.

In a statement, SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the decision to settle was part SAA's board and executive management's commitment to close all legacy issues and to start on a clean slate.

"The finalisation of this matter is a deliberate decision by SAA to clean up and focus on transforming the airline as it undertakes the journey towards financial sustainability," he said. "The airline must execute its strategy without being distracted by legacy issues in order to reach a break-even point by the end of financial year end 2021."

The settlement, however, only adds further pressure to SAA's already stretched financial resources.

Although dependent on the South African government for the bulk of its ZAR21 billion rand (USD1.44 billion) bailout, it was able, in January, to secure a ZAR3.5 billion (USD248.7 million) loan from local South African lenders.