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CompCom warns airlines against price gouging after Comair grounding

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The Competition Commission (CompCom) issued a stern warning on Tuesday night to local airlines around price gouging, following the grounding of Comair at the weekend which has seen a surge in demand for flights on other airlines ahead of the upcoming long weekend.

“The Commission wishes to warn airlines [that it] will not hesitate to act swiftly and decisively if there’s evidence of price [gouging]”It said in a statement.

“Last Saturday 12 March 2022, the South African Civil Aviation Authority announced that it had suspended with immediate effect the Air Operator Certificate of Comair Pty Ltd, with its subsidiaries Kulula.com and British Airways,” the CompCom noted.

Read: Comair planes grounded indefinitely over safety concerns

“Consequently, this suspension meant that significant airline seat capacity had been removed from the market and that would undoubtedly result in travelers having scrambled up the remaining tickets in higher fare buckets.”

It has now emerged that there are reports and complaints of large increases in price for seats on the remaining airlines, some even quoting R5000 [for a] single flight ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town, ”it added.

“Whilst the Commission understands that the removal of airlines does certainly have an impact on the airfares, the situation that stranded passengers find themselves in should not be unduly exploited by other airlines,” the CompCom said.

The commission encouraged all airlines that are operating to put more capacity into the market, where possible, until the Comair situation has been resolved, in order to assist stranded passengers with more moderate prices.

Read: Airline tie-up for Kenya and South Africa: possible rewards, and risks

“Where the Commission finds that airlines have actively removed seats from low fare buckets and allocated them to higher priced fare buckets or introduced new much higher fare buckets on popular routes, then the Commission may consider this an act of price gouging designed to deliberately exploit the current situation, ”it said.

The CompCom added that it will also be engaging airlines over the next few days to establish what plans they have in place to address the current situation and any complaints from travelers about prices in the market.

Listen as Luvuyo Silandela of the Civil Aviation Authority unpacks Comair’s compliance woes (or read the transcript here):

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