Extra jets from city airport

2010-12-03 00:00

MORE than 7 000 passengers per month are using the revamped Pietermaritzburg Airport and yesterday morning 400 kg of mushrooms were air freighted out of the city.

This increasing use of the facility shows it is taking on an important economic role and gaining in status as an regional airport. So said Finance MEC Ina Cronjé at the official opening of the renamed and re-vamped airport yesterday.

The old name — Oribi Airport — is out and a plaque with the new name — Pietermaritzburg Airport — was unveiled yesterday.

In addition, Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr said a competition will be launched shortly for a new logo for the airport. Economist Clive Coetzee, who championed the revamping of the airport on behalf of the provinicial government, said the occasion was also auspicious because the airport will turn 80 on December 11.

Cronjé recalled that she was one of the people who had given up using the Pietermaritzburg Airport. “I could no longer risk missing important meetings because the aeroplane could not land due to bad weather.”

Both Coetzee and Chris Hoare, chief revenue officer of Airlink, pointed out that the diversions of aircraft have been brought down from more than seven a month in 2006 to fewer than three per month in 2010.

Hoare said the problem is that Pietermaritzburg is surrounded by lots of hills, which tend to keep the cloud base very low. He said the global satellite system, which Airlink pioneered and installed at the airport, has made a major difference.

However, he added that there will be times when a diversion will be unavoidable.

Hoare had good news for local commuters, saying there are plans afoot to implement additional jet flights, with an extra flight on a Friday afternoon out of the city. He said more passengers will make prices more competitive.

According to Hoare, the airport’s revamp will allow Airlink to bring in new and more sophisticated passenger aircraft. He said the company is also converting its Jetstream aircraft to freight carriers to fly the Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg route.

Enver Asmal, director of the airport management company Indiza, said his company is convinced that for the city, the airport is in the best location.

Asmal added that he is convinced that with time the airport will become very profitable.

Cronje said there are long-term plans to develop the airport for freight operations. This will mean that cold storage, warehousing and loading facilities will have to be built. There are also plans for a longer runway, which would enable the airport to receive the short-haul aircraft used by most of the cheaper airlines. Future growth also includes industrial and commercial development of land adjacent to the airport.


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