5 May 2015
Visitors to South Africa’s most luxurious lodges in Mpumalanga can now fly directly to their destination from almost anywhere in the world thanks to a new service from independent airline SA Airlink.
SA Airlink signed a deal with Nedbank Capital in April, which will see the privately owned airline acquire four new Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. These will be used to fly passengers to upmarket lodges in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, Nedbank Capital said in a statement issued in April.
SA Airlink, which is in a strategic alliance with SA Airways (SAA), is a feeder airline specifically aimed at linking the smaller towns, regional centres and hubs throughout South Africa. According to its website, the airline currently carries more than 1-million passengers a year on more than 35 000 flights.
Roger Foster, the chief executive of SA Airlink, said the airline had been involved in building up Skukuza Airport near Kruger National Park, which had created awareness among international travellers of the options when travelling to Sabi Sands, Business Day reported on Tuesday.
Mpumalanga’s Skukuza Airport reopened in 2014, which was facilitated by SA Airlink “as part of a broader plan to introduce “seamless connectivity and convenience for national and international tourists wanting to visit the Kruger National Park area”, the statement said.
The four lodges are: Ulusaba, Singita, Arathusa, and Londolozi.
The acquisition of the Cessna aircraft was the final step in SA Airlink’s plan to grow its well-established feeder flight network by adding flights directly to a number of the most popular game lodge destinations in South Africa.
Foster said passengers would be able to use the SAA flight reservations facility to arrange their flights all the way to their final destination.
SA Airlink’s code franchising agreement with SAA removes “the hassle of having to arrange separate road shuttle services or complicated secondary aircraft charters from the main centres to their end-destinations”, he said.
According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism directly contributed more than 640 000 jobs and more than R103-billion of South Africa’s total GDP in 2013, James Geldenhuys, head of aircraft finance for Nedbank Capital, said.