The secret to successfully operating an airline business in SA is what Comair CEO Erik Venter calls a fleet-renewal cycle in which newer, bigger but more fuel-efficient aircraft are phased into the fleet, as older aircraft are phased out. In a sense, this is counterintuitive for an industry already beleaguered by eye-watering capital inputs. Comair is in the process of acquiring eight new Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft at a cost of $420m, scheduled for delivery between 2019 and 2022. Venter made his remarks in the presence of Boeing’s sub-Saharan MD Miguel Santos, who took trouble to emphasise that Boeing was no mere vendor, but Comair’s business partner. That disclaimer aside, a wider context is the gravitas of Comair’s performance record. In February, it reported a record R203m operational profit in its 71-year unbroken profit record. In shareholder value, it now ranks among the top five JSE-listed companies on an average annual growth of 41.5%. It achieved this in an industry globally...

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