Interdict Granted Against FlySafair

The High Court interim interdict granted against FlySafair, South Africa’s latest entrant into the low cost flight market, means that the airline will not be allowed to fly for the moment.

Comair brought the application in the High Court on the basis that FlySafair has more than 25% foreign ownership, contrary to regulations that require under 25% foreign ownership for any domestic airline to operate in South Africa.

FlySafair had intended to launch its services between Johannesburg and Cape Town on 17 October 2013, and has been selling tickets for these flights on its website, priced from R800 upwards. The airline has also begun marketing itself, with numerous billboards along the M1 highway advertising the airline’s services.

The High Court, in an unprecedented and unexpected move, ordered Comair to assist passengers who bought FlySafair tickets, by honouring their ticket prices with FlySafair, and transporting them between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

This move suggests that while the court considered itself bound by the regulations to prevent FlySafair from flying in these circumstances, it did not wish for innocent members of the public to suffer. It may also be indicative that the court views Comair’s legal action as a means of excluding competition in the market, and therefor as a move that does not have entirely pure motives.

It should also be noted that the interim interdict will only be in place for a limited period, and there will be return date on which the parties go to court, for the court to decide whether to make the interim order final. The court may well decide not to make the order final, particularly if there are changed circumstances with regard to FlySafair’s ownership by the time the parties return to court.

Safair has been operating as an aircraft leasing and chartered flights company for a number of years, and once it is operational, will certainly pose a threat to other airlines as it is not a fly-by-night operation, so to speak.

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