HILARY JOFFE: How Comair fell from the sky is a case study of note

21 June 2020 - 00:03 By Hilary Joffe

There will be many business school case studies to be written as the crisis unfolds, about companies that survived and those that failed, whose strategic choices and cultures made them more resilient - or more vulnerable - in the face of a disaster few predicted. One of those case studies will surely be about Comair, which went into business rescue in early May. Its story is a cautionary tale for all companies, not just for airlines. A company that for seven decades closely tailored its operating costs to its revenues and had never bought a new plane suddenly and unaccountably broke out of its own successful mould.

Under former CEO Erik Venter it went on a spending spree, buying or leasing a fleet of new planes and starting a fleet of new businesses. It more than doubled its debt, and increased debt service costs tenfold, over the four years to December 2019 - in an industry where debt is the downfall of many...

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