Airlink, Flysafair plan to spread their wings beyond SA borders after ban is lifted

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Flysafair is applying to fly routes beyond SA's borders.
Flysafair is applying to fly routes beyond SA's borders.

While SAA is waiting for funding to implement its business rescue plan, SA Express' provisional liquidator is busy with a due diligence process, and Kulula.com's owner's rescue plan is due on Friday, private domestic airlines Airlink and Flysafair are already looking at expanding their existing routes beyond SA's borders. 

Airlink and Flysafair, as well as SAA's low-cost airline Mango, already resumed some domestic flights at the start of June.

In the Government Gazette on Friday, the department of transport notes that Airlink is applying to fly seven return flights per week between O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg and tourist hub Livingstone in Zambia, from where visitors can access offerings in the Victoria Falls area.

Low-cost airline Flysafair, meanwhile, is applying to fly three return flights a week between O.R. Tambo and the island of Mauritius - another tourist hotspot, as well as three weekly flights to Zanzibar in Tanzania, and three weekly flights to the Namibian capital of Windhoek.

International commercial flights are currently still banned in SA. 

"As it stands on the domestic market, only 16% of last year's demand is available and feasible to operate. We expect a slow and gradual recovery and we have a lot of aircraft and crew hours that are not utilised," said Flysafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon.

"This application is in the interest of opening up our options to deploy or assets on these routes once open if we determine it to be feasible."

Although its parent company Safair has flown contract flights for other companies outside SA's borders over the past 55 years, the Mauritius, Namibia and Zanzibar flights will be the first international routes for Flysafair.

According to Airlink CEO Rodger Foster, the airline has historically operated to many international destinations within the SADC region as well as to St Helena island, which is a UK territory.

Airlink's international destinations include Harare, Lusaka, Bulawayo, Ndola, Maputo, Beira, Tete, Nampula, Nacala, Pemba, Vilanculos, Antananarivo, Nosy Be, Dar Es Salaam, Gaborone, Maun (Okavango Delta), Kasane (Chobe River), Luanda, Kigali, Entebbe, Windhoek, Walvis Bay (including Swakopmund), Maseru, Mbabane, Victoria Falls and Livingstone.

"As regards the Johannesburg – Livingstone route, Airlink has historically operated between Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI) and Livingstone as part of the tourism circuit," says Foster.

"And given that there is no capacity available on the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route, Airlink would like to serve the Johannesburg-Livingstone route as well as the KMI Airport-Livingstone route in order to provide more itinerary options for our international customers."

It is anticipated that the department of transport may announce its decision within a month.

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