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Comair CEO resigns while still in the clouds

After 23 years with Comair, CEO Erik Venter has resigned. Venter managed to keep the airline at a profitable cruising speed amidst a turbulent airline industry for the duration of his tenure. Venter announced mid-May that he would be leaving the group at the end of July 2019.

statement released by the board cited personal reasons for his departure and expressed gratitude for his two decades of service.

"… The company has a strong and experienced executive team to continue running the company, and business will continue as normal. The board would like to thank Mr Venter for his invaluable contribution over the past 23 years, and wishes him every success in his new endeavours," the statement said.

Joint-CEO aviation stalwarts appointed

Since the statement was released, Comair announced the appointment of joint-CEOs Glenn Orsmond and Wrenelle Stander who will take over from Venter. Stander currently serves as executive director of Comair's airline division, and Orsmond, a chartered accountant, will return after serving as financial director of Comair from 1995 to 2003, and most recently as CFO at Star Air Cargo.

Under Venter’s leadership, Comair was able to fight against a battling South African aviation industry and maintain its 73-year increase in profits, helped by his acquisition of low-cost airline and British Airways under licence.

In the 23 years that Venter has been with Comair, the airline has seen over 30 small airlines arrive and then depart for good, as well as eight CEO’s come and go from the beset SAA.

Innovation and diversification

During that time, Comair's management has controlled costs and increased profit by focussing on diversifying into other revenue streams that have contributed to over 30% of their net profits after taxes, under Venter’s innovative leadership.

These include a catering business that provides’s and British Airways local, onboard refreshments and aviation training centres that include cabin crew and aviation IT solutions. Comair also introduced South Africa’s travellers to SLOW lounges at major airports across the country.

Won battles against SAA and NUMSAS

Earlier this year, Venter made headlines when he won a Labour Court bid to halt a strike just before the Easter travel rush when National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA)S employees threatened to down tools over a wage dispute.

Also, this year Comair received a R1.1 billion plus interest payout from SAA as compensation after it was discovered that SAA was incentivising travel agents to get their clients onto their flights. Venter helped the group cut ties with SAA when Comair appointed Lufthansa for its fleet maintenance after years with the national carrier, citing their abysmal on-time flight record for the move.

Piet van Hoven, Board chair, said in a statement regarding the appointment of the new joint-CEOs, that the company will continue to focus on its own diversification, "The group is less reliant on the notoriously volatile airline businesses, which are so dependent on the performance of the broader economy. These other businesses now contribute 30% of profit," said Van Hoven.


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5 Jun 2019 17:20