Cape Town - Low-cost airline Skywise announced on Tuesday that it has lodged a complaint with the Competition Commission regarding the way it claims it was treated by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).
Skywise alleges that Acsa’s grounding of Skywise flights was "an abuse of dominance and a prohibited practice".
According to Skywise co-chair Tabassum Qadir, it is prohibited for a dominant firm to refuse to give access to an essential facility when it is economically feasible to do so.
"We appeal to the Competition Tribunal to investigate and order the end to this prohibited practice," Qadir said in a statement.
“How was it economically feasible for Acsa to suspend Skywise Airlines in December for an arrear instalment of R1.6m, while it had a deposit of R1.9m and Skywise was on a fly-as-you-pay arrangement?” asked Skywise co-chair Javed Malik.
He said Skywise had lost projected revenue of more than R50m in December.
“It was a deliberate attempt and very soon we will reveal this,” said Malik.
In December last year Skywise also started legal proceedings against Acsa in the South Gauteng High Court.
In terms of the summons served on Acsa, the low-cost airline is claiming damages as a result of a breach of contract by Acsa.
Acsa informed Skywise earlier in December that it was not in a position to accede to the low-cost airline's suggested payment terms for outstanding debt as well as future charges.
Acsa suspended Skywise's flights on December 2 due to unpaid airport charges for landing, take off, parking of aircraft and related service charges. At that time Skywise had already appealed to President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters, Acsa and South African Airways for assistance. It also sought investors.
Skywise brand ambassador Ndileka Mandela, a granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, also expressed the wish that the authorities would resolve the issue of the grounding of Skywise flights.
Acsa maintains its decisions regarding Skywise were taken in its own best commercial interests, and to ensure the sustainability of the aviation industry.
Qadir strongly denied rumours that the airline is winding up.
"We are not winding up Skywise Airline. If we were, what would be the purpose to fight ?" she told Fin24 on Tuesday.
As for a rumour that Skywise did not pay its pilots and cockpit crew in December, Qadir admitted that some staff were retrenched under a "mutual understanding".
"We are proud of all our staff from the tea girl to the CEO. They were all loyal staff," she said.
She added that Skywise have been meeting with potential investors.
"The outcome of these meetings is very positive. However, before we resume we need to fight against the red tape of the aviation industry in South Africa," she said.