Flights grounded ‘to save lives'

2007-12-01 00:00

Airline rivals raced to put on extra flights yesterday to accommodate Nationwide passengers left stranded after the SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) grounded the airline over maintenance concerns from midnight on Thursday.

“We cannot afford to be reckless on this because we are dealing with human lives,” said CAA executive legal manager Ntheri Magoai.

Nationwide said 6 000 passengers were affected yesterday alone. It had to cancel 60 flights, including one to London last night and two to Livingstone in Zambia, said the airline’s sales and marketing manager Charmaine Thome.

Also cancelled were the airline’s domestic flights to and from Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, George, Mpumalanga and Johannesburg, she said.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) spokesman Solomon Makgale said that long queues of Nationwide passengers were “clearing up”.

He said Acsa had staff on the floor at O.R. Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg, explaining what had happened to Nationwide passengers as they arrived for their flights.

They were being directed to the Nationwide reservations desk where Nationwide staff were informing them of their options.

This was not having any effect on the passengers of other airlines, said Makgale.

At Durban International, Acsa spokesman Colin Naidoo said minor delays and disgruntled passengers are expected this weekend.

Both Nationwide and travel agencies were trying to make arrangements for passengers and all airlines have promised to do all they can to help.

This is despite the fact that schools broke up yesterday and the holiday season, with its extremely high traffic volumes, is under way.

According to Thome, Nationwide was offering refunds to passengers unable to get alternative transport. It was also offering to change their tickets for flights on later dates.

However, from midnight yesterday, Nationwide passengers who had been left stranded were no longer being assisted by rival airline Comair, which earlier came to passengers’ assistance by accepting endorsed tickets.

Airline spokeswoman Glenda Zvenyika said the decision came after Nationwide’s tickets were declared void by the International Air Transport Association and the airline suspended as a participating carrier in the Bank Settlement Plan (BSP).

The BSP distributes funds to travel agents for bookings made with airlines.

The airline said it added two additional flights to Cape Town last night and is investigating the possibility of assisting stranded customers by adding more flights to the weekend.

“With the advent of school holidays and the festive season, our flights are already operating at high-load factors, but we will try and assist these displaced customers wherever possible,” said Comair spokesman Stuart Cochrane.

“We are in the process of assessing the operational logistics of scheduling additional flights later this afternoon [Friday] and into the weekend,” he said.

He advised people to book flights through Comair’s call centre, rather than to simply arrive at the airport.

The British Airways call centre is on 0860 I FLY BA (435922), and kulula.com may be found on 0861 KULULA (58582).

Bookings can be made on www.ba.com, www.kulula.com or via a travel agent.

South African Airways (SAA) said that while it is putting on extra flights, stranded passengers will have to pay for seats on these planes.

Details of the additional SAA flights were not immediately available.

The CAA grounded Nationwide from midnight on Thursday over concerns about the maintenance of the 16 aircraft in its fleet — 12 Boeing 737-200s, three Boeing 727s and one Boeing 767.

Nationwide has indicated that it intends appealing the decision.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.