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Cape Town – The SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) has suspended all flights to Plettenberg Bay over non-compliance with infrastructure and safety regulations.
This comes after the Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome, a small airport serving Plettenberg Bay was downgraded to below the minimum category required for flights to operate at the airport.
Privately owned domestic and regional carrier CemAir’s chief financial officer, Laura van der Molen, said the suspension of the flights would affect both the Johannesburg and the Cape Town services.
Sacaa acting spokesperson Marie Bray, said their inspectorate met and had a discussion with the Bitou Municipality to address severe non-compliances relating to the aerodrome, in the interest of aviation safety and security.
Bray said the municipality took the decision to downgrade their aerodrome, from category four to two, in order to allow themselves enough time to address those outstanding non-compliance issues.
“The downgrade will affect scheduled services only. The general aviation sector and charter operations will not be affected,” she said.
Bitou Municipality spokesperson Andile Namntu said they were aware that the suspension of the flights would hurt the tourism sector as well as the economy of the town since commercial flights would not be able to land in Plettenberg Bay until those non-compliances were resolved.
Van der Molen said the suspension results from the downgrading of Plettenberg Bay Airport to below the minimum category required for their flights to operate into the airport.
She said the records showed that the reason for suspension was the ongoing failure of the airport to address outstanding issues from Sacaa inspections, some several years old.
“Although written undertakings with specified time frames were provided to the Sacaa to address shortcomings, these undertakings were not met,” said Van der Molen.
She said the Bitou municipality had both a statutory and contractual obligation to correct the issues, however, has not done so and at the time of writing has made no commitment to address the issues.
She said it was unclear why the Sacaa’s decision, although based on long outstanding issues, was made with almost no notice.
Van der Molen said although CemAir has on numerous occasions offered to assist with the resolution of issues as well as the management of the airport and provision of essential training for airport and firefighting staff, the majority of those offers or proposals were ignored and went unanswered by the Bitou Municipality.
She said passengers with tickets already booked on their Plettenberg Bay service would be reaccommodated on their flights from George Airport.
“We will be introducing a George to Cape Town service to accommodate customers on this routing,” she said.
She said unfortunately, as an airline they relied on the infrastructure of the country to provide their service.
“When this infrastructure is not maintained, the government needs to be held accountable,” she said.