Flight training helps drive regional growth and business diversification

    JOHANNESBURG – Comair Limited today showcased its ongoing diversification, beyond its airline brands and as a full-fledged travel enterprise, at a media briefing at its Comair Training Centre (CTC). The facility provides training to more than 32 airlines, as well as other entities such as the South African Air Force and the Indian Air Force.

    Erik Venter, CEO of Comair Limited, says, “After more than 70 years of uninterrupted, profitable operation, Comair is applying the lessons gleaned in the tough airline sector – operating our two airline brands, kulula.com and British Airways (operated under licence by Comair). A prime example of those lessons successfully applied is the CTC.

    “The facility operates four flight simulators for various configurations of Boeing 737, the best-selling commercial jet airliner in history. We’ve built a client base of airlines from African countries, as well as the Middle East, South America, Indo-Asia and the Far East, offering advanced pilot training for both airline operators and private clients.”

    Training is specific to the 737 series aircraft, as well as non-type specific classroom training, adds Venter. He explains that the latter includes crew resource management courses as well as command evaluation and upgrade training.

    Comair has also set up a retired Boeing 737 for fully immersive cabin crew training, providing a realistic environment for safety and evacuation training.  The aircraft is equipped with bulkheads and stowages, smoke simulators, communication system, passenger and crew seats, doors and slides, galleys and a flight deck.

    Venter adds, “This sort of training is crucial, not only to Comair’s competitiveness as a diversified travel brand, but also for the development of South Africa as a travel and hospitality destination, which remains robust despite a volatile and recessive economy. And the CTC’s international client-base generates valuable forex for the national economy.”

    Venter notes that Boeing’s recent Current Market Outlook (CMO) report has found that air traffic for Africa’s carriers is forecast to grow at nearly 6% annually over the next 20 years, which is above the world average and is driven by economic growth on the continent and by increasing numbers of travellers from and within the region.

    Boeing projects that the burgeoning aviation sector in Africa will need 20 000 new pilots, 24 000 new technicians and 26 000 new cabin crew by 2035. This reflects a global demand for 617 000 new pilots, 679 000 new technicians and 814 000 new cabin crew for the same period.

    “Comair’s efforts to help address that not only adds impetus to the aviation sector, but also helps propel socioeconomic growth in Africa while opening career prospects for thousands of people,” Venter says.

    Apart from CTC, other examples of Comair’s diversification include Food Directions, established in 2012 to provide catering to Comair’s two airline brands. Comair has invested R30 million in HACCP*-compliant, ISO-standard bespoke kitchens in Jet Park and Cape Town, employing around 220 staff, who prepare around 10 000 airline meals a day. The facilities aim to combine maximum productivity and exceptional hygiene standards, with cost-effective and nutritious, tasty fare.

    Another example is the SLOW Lounge brand, which provides comfort and refreshment for local and international passengers, and is expanding into Africa.

    *HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a preventative food safety system in which each step in the production, storage and distribution of food is analysed for microbiological, physical and chemical hazards.