South African Airlink’s extensive efforts to upgrade Malelane Airfield into a licenced airport, has finally paid dividends. The key Lowveld airport is now licenced in “Category Four” which will allow SA Airlink to operate its Jetstream 41 fleet on the Johannesburg-Malelane route.
A delighted Rodger Foster, CEO of SA Airlink - the feeder partner in the SAA-SA Express-SA Airlink alliance - this week said his airline had undertaken to upgrade Malelane airfield to licenced standards after the owners, Transvaal Sugar Board, had declined to do so.
“SA Airlink spent well over R1 million on the upgrading of the airfield, including the construction of a runway expansion and installation of emergency equipment. But delays in officially receiving a licence for the airfield have been extremely frustrating for SA Airlink. Fortunately, we now at last have the necessary sanction to operate a destination which holds several benefits for us,” Foster stated.
In the first place, SA Airlink will from 3 August this year, offer two weekly return flights ( Fridays and Sundays) between Johannesburg and Malelane. The new service is primarily aimed at the leisure market as Malelane - the southern gateway to the Kruger National Park - is in close proximity to several very popular “bush” destinations for both local and overseas tourists.
Foster added: “Secondly, Malelane airfield can now be used as a diversion landing point when low cloud conditions at Nelspruit prohibit landing there. We have far too often had to turn our flights back to Johannesburg as a result of low cloud at Nelspruit Airport. Now, in the case of inclement weather conditions, we will simply divert to Malelane - with minimum inconvenience for our passengers as we always used to do.”
Foster said Malelane - situated much lower than Nelspruit - seldom if ever experienced cloud conditions necessitating diversions.
SA Airlink will now offer five instead of its previous six weekday return flights between Johannesburg and Nelspruit. “The Civil Aviation Authority has now also imposed additional restrictions on operations at Nelspruit. I think it is safe to say that SA Airlink will use the new Primkop Airport as our base in Nelspruit as soon as the facility is completed,” Foster added.