Authorities are investigating an incident involving two aeroplanes damaged in a collision at OR Tambo International Airport — a South African Airways (SAA) Airbus and a FlySafair Boeing.

Authorities believe the collision was caused by driver error or a possible equipment failure that saw the towing bar connected to the SAA plane come loose.

Reports indicated that the tow bar failure caused the incident. However, sources at the airport say the driver might have misjudged when turning.

The SAA Airbus’ wing tip came into contact with the tail of the FlySafair plane, resulting in both being pulled from operation while the damage is assessed.

Pilots on another plane witnessed the collision. They said the technician in the SAA plane appeared to either be sleeping or not paying attention while the aircraft was being towed.

SAA said it has had to cancel one of its flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town and accommodate affected passengers on another flight.

FlySafair says it is still assessing damages and investigating the incident, adding that its Boeing 737-800 was parked at gate C2 and not in commission.

Notably, the FlySafair plane damaged in the incident is one of two jets the airline uses for flights to Mauritius because they have larger fuel tanks to cover the longer distance.

“At this stage, the airline does not foresee any interruption to scheduled operations. A backup aircraft has been deployed to ensure all flights depart on time,” it said.

However, SAA is likely in a bigger predicament as the airline only has seven operational jets.

FlySafair’s inaugural flight from Johannesburg to Mauritius landed on 8 March 2022 — nearly four months after it was set to begin operating on the route.

It delayed the route’s launch following South African scientists’ discovery of the omicron variant. The island was reopened for travel on 7 January 2022.

FlySafair’s twice-weekly service to Mauritius operates out of OR Tambo International Airport every Tuesday and Saturday.

FlySafair CEO Elmar Conradie said the addition of the route forms part of the airline’s growth plans.

“Our own market research has shown that there is a lot of pent-up demand for the route, and we can offer passengers more choice when it comes to travelling to the island,” he said.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about landing in Mauritius for the first time.”