South African Airways went on the offensive yesterday when Comair's chief executive Erik Venter gave testimony to the Competition Tribunal.
Comair's initial complaint to the tribunal in 2006, accusing the national carrier of uncompetitiveness resulted in a settlement agreement. SAA agreed to pay an administrative fine of R15million.
Now Comair wants to pursue a civil claim for damages in the high court, but needs an order from the tribunal that SAA's conduct was a prohibited practice in terms of the Competition Act.
Nationwide made a similar complaint against SAA in 2006, and the resolution of that case saw SAA paying an administrative penalty of R45million.
SAA did not, however, admit liability for the companies' losses.
Arnold Subel, SAA's advocate, pursued Venter in a line of question that suggested the reason for Comair's loss of customers was caused by its relatively low number of flights and small flight network.
Comair has about 400 corporate agreements with various corporate clients.
The company feels that SAA abused its market dominance to freeze out smaller flight carriers by offering incentives and targets to travel agents that Comair could not match on any basis.
Venter named four of the largest travel companies, Renfin, Sure Travel, Tourvest and SAA City Centre, as accomplices in the collusion against smaller operators.