Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

CemAir has welcomed a ruling overturning the SA Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA's) decision to ground the airline, saying the landslide victory vindicated the company.

The Civil Aviation Appeal Committee (CAAC) ruled in April that the grounding of the airline’s entire fleet of 21 planes during the December 2018 and January 2019 holiday season was irrational and factually wrong.

The airline was grounded after it reportedly contravened the Civil Aviation Act and five CAA regulations.

The authority argued at the time that noncompliance by the airline posed a serious and immediate threat to safety.

The CAA claimed it had records that showed CemAir had been operating some of its aircraft outside of permissible loading limits, which meant the weights of passengers and baggage declared by the flight crew were not the same as those recorded by CemAir’s service provider.

However, the April 29 CAAC’s judgment stated that the CAA’s decision contained material errors which rendered it irrational, arbitrary, unreasonable and procedurally unfair.

The airline said the decision to ground its fleet inconvenienced tens of thousands of travellers and had resulted in job losses.

“In addition, the cost to the SA economy from the lost flights to transport tourists over the busy year-end, and in the loss of air connectivity to support the economies of regional towns, is inestimably large.”

CemAir stressed that the judgment, which it described as a landslide victory, completely vindicated the company and “is a clear and unequivocal confirmation that no valid safety concerns exists or existed at the airline”.

The airline also noted that the victory, however, did not allow it to resume operations just yet, saying its air operating certificate expired through the ordinary passage of time, during the nearly four month duration of the appeal process.

The company was working with the CAA on the renewal of the operating certificate.

“However this has reached an impasse as the CAA intends to assign the same inspectors castigated for bias and incompetence in the Caac judgment.”

CAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said the assertions by CemAir were “predominantly incorrect.” 

“The SA Civil Aviation Authority will be addressing these inaccuracies very comprehensively, either through a detailed media statement or media conference, in the next few days.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za