Air Link plans to fly to Bhisho Airport

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bhisho - Bhisho Airport is expected to have the first commercial airline landing on its runways in the near future.

This follows a recent meeting at Bhisho Airport between the provincial Department of Roads and Transport and Air Link on the possibility of introducing flights between Cape Town, Bhisho Airport and Mthatha.

The department's delegation was led by the MEC for Transport and Safety Gloria Barry, who expressed appreciation by this show of interest.

Air Link Chief Operations Officer Johan van Jaarsveld said the newly-refurbished Bhisho Airport infrastructure met their requirements.

"There is a huge opportunity for us here and any Air Link aircraft can land here. We will send an operations team to do an audit of operational facilities," said Mr van Jaarsveld.

The company further requested the department to urgently upgrade its infrastructure at the Mthatha Airport in order to introduce an evening flight between Johannesburg and Mthatha.

It was agreed that, while waiting for the physical upgrade to commence at the Mthatha Airport by July 2009, the runway lights needed urgent attention.

This 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. A future link to Durban from Mthatha is envisaged as soon as the correct type of service is developed.

An important goal is to link Port Elizabeth to Mthatha via Bhisho with the service geared for faster movement between these three areas and to reduce the number of government vehicles on these routes.

This also includes ensuring that the Mthatha Airport contributes in tourism development in the region through improving access to the Wild Coast, which is a popular tourist destination.

The airport will also contribute to local business development and facilitates connectivity with local businesses as people will now come directly to Mthatha instead of flying 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 in this project," said MEC Barry.