The cyclical nature of airlines notwithstanding, Comair has maintained an unbroken record of 72 years of profitability — which is thought to be unique globally, and something the Treasury and beleaguered taxpayers wish SA’s national carrier could achieve. How has the company managed this, most notably in a decade in which the aviation sector has shown almost no growth and overcapacity in the industry has persisted? The answer is twofold. Management has been rigorous in containing costs at every level; and the group was diversified into other, non-airline, revenue streams. These non-airline businesses now contribute 27% to Comair’s net profit after taxation. Comair consists of four units: airlines, hospitality & tourism, aviation training and aviation IT solutions. Recent interim results showed airline passenger revenue growing 11% (a 5% rise in passenger volumes and a 6% increase in average fares per passenger). But average seat occupancy remained below the global average of 85%, hi...

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