Neels Blom Writer at large
A Boeing 787 sits on the assembly line in Washington in this file photo. Picture: REUTERS
A Boeing 787 sits on the assembly line in Washington in this file photo. Picture: REUTERS

In another blow to South African Airways (SAA), Comair has announced that its future fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft will be serviced by Lufthansa Technik.

This means JSE-listed Comair, which operates British Airways in SA under licence and the low-cost carrier, will cut back its long-standing arrangement with South African Airways Technical (SAAT), with which it had an exclusive deal.

Comair’s partnership with SAAT would, however, continue as normal "at this stage, with a number of long-term agreements still in place" Comair MD Erik Venter said on Thursday.

Earlier in 2018, Venter said Comair was satisfied with the technical service provided by SAAT, but it was considering its options, including forming a relationship with Lufthansa. He said Comair was cognisant of the challenges at SAA and SAAT, especially at managerial level where it could affect workflow, but it circumvented this by having its own structures in place at SAAT.

In April, it was reported that seven senior staff members at SAAT had been recommended for suspension on charges involving dubious bid processes, employment practices and irregular procurement. This came after a recommendation by attorneys Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

Comair said Lufthansa Technik would provide engineering, planning, line maintenance and component support to Comair’s future Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet. The services commence when Comair, as part of its fleet renewal programme, takes delivery of the first two of eight 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order in January.

Comair operates 26 Boeing aircraft, of which it owns 19. The airline is in the process of upgrading its entire fleet to Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

"The imminent arrival of the 737 MAX 8 was an opportunity for us to evaluate our future technical requirements. Lufthansa Technik’s experience with the aircraft type and the operational efficiencies we believe we’ll gain in terms of maintenance turnaround times will enable us to further leverage the benefits of our investment in the new fleet and improve customer service."