19 September 2011
Taxi body Santaco’s new low-cost airline will open up air travel to many South Africans previously unable to access it, President Jacob Zuma said at the airline’s launch at Lanseria Airport on Friday.
Zuma said the South African National Taxi Council’s (Santaco’s) new venture showed growth of the country’s aviation industry.
Due to the high cost of air travel and a perception that air travel was the exclusive preserve of a privileged few, many South Africans did not have access to air travel.
Opening air travel ‘to the masses’
“Santaco is therefore opening air travel to the masses, building on the contribution of other low-cost airlines that entered the market recently,” Zuma said.
Santaco Airlines ran a test flight from Johannesburg to Bisho in the Eastern Cape on Friday.
The airline will initially operate one or two flights a day between Lanseria and Bhisho in the Eastern Cape, and then on to the Cape Town International Airport.
Its main target is Johannesburg customers, who often have to make a 14-hour road trip for a funeral in the Eastern Cape only to return five hours later. Commuters will be taken from Joburg taxi ranks to the airport, then transported to a taxi rank at their destination.
“Our potential is to make the bush into the city,” Santaco president Jabulani Mthembu said when the announcing plans for the airline earlier this year, explaining that the airline would focus on regional airports.
“We specialise in awkward areas because that’s where our business is.”
First fully black-owned airline
Zuma congratulated the council for giving South Africa its first fully black-owned airline.
“The venture is significant because it’s a practical example of economic and social emancipation in both ownership and consumption.”
The airline is owned by over 10 000 taxi owners, making it one of the most broad-based black empowerment ventures in South Africa.
Zuma said the government would continue to invest in infrastructure to support growth in the taxi industry and in public transport in general.