By Maya Fisher-French for News24
After announcing the suspension of flights last week due to funding issues, Comair this week announced that it had applied for liquidation. The application will be heard in court on Tuesday.
According to a press statement released by Comair, the company’s employees and customers who had bookings or were owed refunds will now become creditors of the company.
Customers will be concurrent creditors, which means customers due refunds will only receive payment if there are funds left after paying costs and preferential creditors. However, there are various ways that customers can obtain a refund depending on the airline and depending on how they booked their flights.
For those customers who had booked local British Airways (operated by Comair) flights, the British Airways Booking with Confidence Policy will apply. This means that tickets will either be refunded or rebooked.
If you have a standalone booking with British Airways (operated by Comair) to fly within southern Africa, take note of the following:
If you are due to travel up to and including June 14, you can obtain a refund via Manage my Booking, or call British Airways to discuss rebooking options.
If you are due to travel from June 15 onwards, you can obtain a refund via Manage my Booking.
If you have a booking with Comair and you booked through a travel agent, you will need to contact them directly regarding refunds.
Kulula customers who booked during the “winter sale” special on May 30 will be fully refunded. Other Kulula customers will become concurrent creditors.
Customers need to email MNContactCentre@comair.co.za for information.
Chargeback – a refund from your bank
Kulula customers who booked using their Visa, American Express or Mastercard could qualify for a refund under the chargeback rules. When you use your card for transactions, you qualify for chargeback rights if merchants don’t deliver goods and services.
A chargeback prevents customers from suffering financial loss and engaging in lengthy disputes with merchants. The bank takes care of this within a clearly defined process.
According to Standard Bank, a chargeback would automatically apply once the airline goes into liquidation. This means that if the liquidation order is granted on Tuesday, all ticket holders who booked using a Mastercard, American Express or Visa card will be able to apply for a chargeback from their bank.
Nedbank has confirmed that “impacted clients who were not able to fly and purchased tickets using a payment card, branded with a Visa, Mastercard or an American Express logo, may contact their bank to log a dispute. Clients have the right to an immediate chargeback following the granting of the liquidation order”.
Nedbank customers can call 010 217 3001 or email CPOCardDisputes@nedbank.co.za for information.
Absa customers who booked Comair tickets via their cards can email firstname.lastname@example.org to assist with the chargeback process.
“As with all chargeback requests, each matter is evaluated in line with the Visa and Mastercard chargeback rules,” said an Absa spokesperson.
FNB confirms that customers who purchased British Airways and Kulula tickets using the FNB and RMB Private Bank apps, eBucks or the eBucks Travel desk will be assisted through a dedicated refund process.
“Our customers who purchased their tickets directly from the affected airlines or a third-party travel agent can lodge a dispute through the SecureChat feature on the FNB and RMB Private Bank apps,” said an FNB spokesperson.
To avoid any delays in processing a refund, we encourage our customers to immediately upload a copy of their flight booking confirmation. Customers can chat to a SecureChat agent for further assistance.
The spokesperson added that customers who paid for flight tickets using third-party instant EFT services are advised to lodge a dispute directly with the airlines, as instant EFT payments cannot be reversed via the bank.
Discovery Bank announced that it would immediately refund Vitality clients affected by the Comair shutdown.
“Any Vitality member who is a Discovery bank client and booked a discounted flight departing from June 1 2022 onwards that has been cancelled due to this issue, Discovery bank will automatically refund the amount spent on that flight into the Vitality member’s Discovery bank account by close of business on June 10. This refund process is automatic, so no action is required from members.”
Affected Vitality members who are not Discovery bank clients can open a Discovery bank account by downloading the Discovery bank app before June 30 to facilitate the refund. Alternatively, they can process the refund through their own bank.
Standard Bank customers who want an update on refunds from Comair or would like to query their refunds can call 0861 20 1000 (main market), 0860 001 321 (prestige) and 0860 123 101 (private banking).
The airline operator had been in business rescue since May 5 2020 due to the suspension of all travel during the Covid-19 lockdown.
According to a press statement, after entering business rescue, Comair was able to start flying again when the Comair Rescue Consortium (CRC) invested R500 million for a 99% share of the equity in the company at the time.
According to the company, further Covid-related air travel restrictions combined with the significantly higher fuel prices experienced in the past five months had a material negative impact on the business.
The CRC was only able to finance the impact of these events up to a certain point.
In March, Comair sold the Slow Lounge business to FNB in an attempt to raise more funds.
On June 9, the business rescue practitioners lodged a court application to convert the business rescue proceedings into liquidation proceedings.
In a press statement, one of the business rescue practitioners, Richard Ferguson, says that with its two airline brands – British Airways (operated by Comair) and Kulula – market share, modern aircraft fleet, experienced employees, and sales and distributions channels, Comair was an inherently viable business.
“We did our utmost to secure the funding, but when we were unable to do so, we had no option but to lodge the application. It is an extremely sad day for the company, its employees, its customers and South African aviation.”