Comair CEO Erik Venter. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI.
Comair CEO Erik Venter. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI.

Comair, the listed airline which has made unbroken profits for 72 years, shocked the market on Tuesday when it announced after trading had closed that its CEO Erik Venter would be leaving at the end of July after 23 years with the group. 

The group's board announced he would leave for personal reasons and thanked him for his service.

"An announcement regarding a replacement for the CEO will be made in due course. The company has a strong and experienced executive team to continue running the company, and business will continue as normal. The board would like to thank Mr  Venter for his invaluable contribution over the past 23 years, and wishes him every success in his new endeavours," it said.

Venter and the rest of the management team have kept Comair profitable while SAA has needed bailouts to stay in the sky.

The company is SA's only JSE-listed airline. It operates British Airways through a licence and also runs kulula.com. It has defied weak economic growth, rising fuel prices and an oversupply of seats in the South African market.

Comair's management has contained costs and the group has diversified into other, non-airline revenue streams. These non-airline businesses contribute close to 30% of Comair’s net profit after taxes. These four units are airlines, hospitality and tourism, aviation training and aviation IT solutions.

Attempts to reach Venter  were unsuccessful.

Venter has been Comair's CEO in two stints, between December 2011 and January 2014 and then since June 2014.

andersona@businesslive.co.za