kulula.com, also known as Kulula Air, is a South African LCC. The airline is a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Airways franchise Comair. kulula.com is based at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport and operates domestic and international services to countries including Mauritius, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Location of kulula.com main hub (Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo International Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider kulula.com fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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Having abandoned plans to take-over failed South African LCC 1time, aspiring pan-African carrier fastjet has entered into a complex and controversial deal to gain access to the important South African market where it plans to launch services in Jul-2013.
But the London-listed carrier, which already operates in Tanzania, is coming under increasing pressure from its opponents to lift the veil on the ownership and management structure of its South African partnership designed to satisfy domestic ownership requirements.
Under the structure fastjet has reportedly given up 75% ownership to South African investment company Blockbuster, which has been renamed Fastjet Holdings. The company is reportedly fronted by the eldest son of South African President Jacob Zuma, playboy businessman and lawyer Edward Zuma, along with his business partner Yusuf Kajee.
Opponents, both rival airlines and politicians, allege Fastjet Holdings is little more than a front for fastjet to gain access to South African air rights through a separate arrangement with charter carrier Federal Air, which will operate the fastjet services using its operating licence.
South African Airlines will spell out its future in a strategic plan to be presented to the South African Government in early Apr-2013. But history suggests that implementation of a new strategy is far from assured at the carrier which suffers from extensive government meddling.
A new CEO is also expected to be appointed by the end of Mar-2013, replacing Siza Mzimela who resigned, along with several top executives in Oct-2012 in the wake of a mass board resignation the previous month, citing a “breakdown in the relationship with the shareholder”, testifying to the deep divisions between management.
Details are emerging of what led to those events, with media reports suggesting a decision by Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, to block a ZAR10 billion (USD1.08 billion) decision to purchase a fleet of A350 aircraft to replace the carrier’s A340-600s was at the centre of the falling out between the board and management.
Meanwhile SAA survives on the basis of a ZAR5 billion (USD540 million) government guarantee granted on 02-Oct-2012 for a two year period effective 01-Sep-2012. The guarantee is intended to enable SAA to borrow on the financial markets and remain solvent.
Fastjet has secured its entry into the Kenyan market and its first expansion outside Tanzania and access to the key Nairobi hub by throwing a lifeline to collapsed local carrier Jetlink Express.
The two carriers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 28-Jan-2013 to create a joint venture allowing fastjet to launch its brand in Kenya in the next few months.
Fastjet launched two domestic routes from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in Nov-2012 with A319 aircraft, rebranding and refleeting its newly acquired Fly540 operation in the country. The carrier also owns the Fly540 regional operations in Angola and Ghana.
The bigger Kenyan market will provide a strong launch pad for further Eastern African expansion, including the development of links with international carriers which are already being explored.
South Africa has lost two airlines this year with the collapse of low-cost carrier 1time on 02-Nov-2012 and short lived LCC start-up Velvet Sky in Mar-2012. The demise of the smaller carriers has in effect returned the South African domestic market to a duopoly of South African Airways and Comair and their respective subsidiaries.
SAA dominates the market with its main brand supported by LCC subsidiary Mango and regional subsidiary SA Express. Comair operates a full-service British Airways franchise and competes in the LCC market with its Kulula brand. The two groups probably have until about the middle of 2013 to consolidate their positions in anticipation of an inevitable new entrant, likely to come from former 1time executives who appear to be planning to launch new LCC Skywise early in 2013.
British Airways franchisee Comair reported a strong net profit for the year ended 30-Jun-2011, however external factors are expected to create a challenging environment ahead. The South African carrier reported a slightly smaller operating profit for the year and the second lowest operating profit in the past six years. FY2010 saw a strong operating profit due to the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup, which gave most South African carriers a temporary boost. The effects of this period however have been cut short by the rising cost of fuel, increase in ACSA tariffs and general economic conditions. FY2012 is expected to be a challenging period for Comair and it has suspended any significant growth plans in anticipation of this. Comair is still implementing its fleet renewal programme, which will see it and its wholly-owned low cost subsidiary Kulula operate a fleet of next generation B737s.
The development of Lanseria Airport - a secondary airport servicing Johannesburg - as a regional hub is progressing for both Comair brands, but particularly for Kulula. While the carrier is readying itself for tough operating conditions ahead, its new hub is set to benefit from high investment, construction projects and increased capacity.
South Africa's Lanseria International Airport’s newly published five-year plan calls for expansion including the extension of its runway to accommodate A300s and B767s and the construction of a new passenger terminal and hotel. The LCC 1Time will soon join rival kulula.com there, ending kulula’s scheduled service monopoly. The end result, together with the experience the Lanseria management accrued with private jets during the World Cup, is some real opposition for the first time in the Johannesburg area to ACSA’s O R Tambo Airport.