Comair CEO Erik Venter has expressed concern about the collapse of governance and experience at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), describing it as “nerve-wracking”.
He said the organisation takes a “tick-box” approach and as a result, many airlines had begun to move towards self-regulation. Venter made the remarks at the Gordon Institute of Business Science forum at the University of Pretoria yesterday.
He added that government’s plan to encourage the search for minority partners to invest in the South African Airways (SAA) would not be an easy one.
“Stateowned enterprises and the private sector are held to different standards,” Venter said.
“There is a lot of ground to be covered.”
Venter said the protection of SAA was at the cost of the South African consumer.
“We need a bigger picture view of what is in the best interest of the country,” Venter said. “It’s not in our best interest to protect SAA.”
Venter said the main driver of growth in Africa was the middle class, and, while it had increased substantially, this was off a very low base.
It could take between 20 and 30 years for the middle class in Africa to grow to the size that would support extensive aviation operations and services within the continent, he said.
“The only way to grow aviation in Africa will be through the subsidisation of airline tickets, or airports, or simply waiting for economic growth to fuel demand,” Venter said.
He said foreign carriers are responsible for 80% of passenger air traffic in and out of Africa.
In terms of the international aviation landscape, South Africa’s poor geographic location meant any locally-operated airline trying to run an international route would not achieve economies of scale.
“South Africa is a difficult destination to get to as it is a long haul flight from everywhere,” Venter said.
– Citizen reporter