cemair airline

It’s all been a question of timing for Cemair, which is spreading its wings. Image: Supplied

Private airline Cemair to expand beyond South Africa

The company has experienced a growth spurt as a result of changes in the aviation landscape caused by the pandemic.

cemair airline

It’s all been a question of timing for Cemair, which is spreading its wings. Image: Supplied

While many airlines all over the globe face severe challenges, including ongoing business rescue processes, filing for bankruptcy or downsizing their operations, the privately owned South African airline company Cemair is scaling up.

This is somewhat of an anomaly considering the grim conditions still being experienced in the aviation sector.


Cemair was founded in 2005 by Miles van der Molen, a pilot himself. Before COVID-19, Cemair primarily operated charter flights and leased its aircraft to other airlines.

The airline also operated scheduled flights to smaller airports in South Africa including Hoedspruit, Margate and Plettenberg Bay.


Cemair’s fleet consists of 34 aircraft, mainly smaller aircraft which carry fewer passengers than the other airlines in South Africa. All of the aircraft in Cemair’s fleet are owned by the company.

In addition, Cemair is licensed to perform aircraft maintenance. The company can therefore carry out servicing and maintenance on its own aircraft, which enables increased efficiency and cost savings.   


When South Africa moved to lockdown level three earlier in 2020, airlines were granted permission to resume scheduled flights, subject to health and safety protocols. It did not take long for Cemair to implement the obligatory health and safety protocols, and to get back into the skies.     

Cemair was the first airline to begin scheduled domestic flights in South Africa. With Airlink, Mango and FlySafair needing more time to implement COVID-19 protocols ahead of the resumption of their scheduled flights, Cemair was quickly able to begin offering mainstream scheduled flights to larger cities including Durban and Cape Town.


Since 1 June, local airlines were able to resume domestic flights. Cemair took advantage of the gap in the market that was created by the absence of other major airlines under business rescue processes.

Cemair has since expanded its route network and now offers scheduled flights to the larger airports in South Africa including Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, George and Kimberley. The additional flights mean increased choice and more competitive fares for passengers.


Cemair is licensed to provide both scheduled and non-scheduled domestic and international flights. The airline intends to expand its operations in Africa. Cemair has applied for rights to operate scheduled flights to six destinations outside of South Africa.

The fact that certain regional destinations are still not being served by any airline presents an ideal opportunity for Cemair to launch new routes.  

“It is now or never,” says Cemair marketing manager Shaniel Singh.

Cemair has purchased three Airbus A 319 aircraft which it will deploy on its new regional flights once approval has been granted for these routes.   


COVID-19 has completely changed the aviation landscape. This has presented Cemair with an ideal opportunity to scale up. Cemair having smaller aircraft could help it to operate more efficiently while there is a slump in demand for aviation.

Flying empty aircraft is not economically viable and results in airlines suspending routes or reducing frequencies.

Aviation expert Joachim Vermooten said it was vital for airlines to use the most suitable aircraft for every route they operated. He said managing supply and demand was essential if airlines were to survive the current conditions.    

“When you fail to fill up a large aircraft, you lose money very fast,” Vermooten said.