15 May 2009
The Eastern Cape government has held talks with domestic airline Airlink about the possibility of introducing flights between Cape Town, Bhisho and Mthatha.
“There is a huge opportunity for us here, and any Airlink aircraft can land here,” Airlink chief operations officer Johan van Jaarsveld said in Bhisho this week, adding that the newly refurbished Bhisho Airport infrastructure met the airline’s requirements.
“We will send an operations team to do an audit of operational facilities,” he said.
The company has also asked the provincial transport department to upgrade its infrastructure at the Mthatha Airport in order to allow for an evening flight between Johannesburg and Mthatha.
According to a statement released by the provincial government this week, the parties agreed that while waiting for the physical upgrade at Mthatha Airport to start by July 2009, the runway lights needed urgent attention.
The initiative forms part of the department’s Blue Skyway Aviation Strategy, which seeks to attract investment to the Bhisho and Mthatha Airports.
The department intends to have a second airline between Mthatha and Johannesburg, including an evening flight, while a future link to Durban from Mthatha is envisaged as soon as the correct type of service is developed.
The provincial government also aims to link Port Elizabeth to Mthatha via Bhisho to allow faster movement between these three areas and to reduce the number of government vehicles on these routes.
Wild Coast access
This aim is also to boost tourism in the region by improving access to the Wild Coast, a popular tourist destination.
The airport will also contribute to local business development, with people coming directly to Mthatha instead of having to fly to East London and then drive for three hours.
“Our doors are wide open for any investor that wants to come forward and add value to this project,” said provincial transport minister Gloria Barry.
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