Johannesburg - Flying VIPs and sending aircraft to fetch or accompany them has cost at least R79 million for the past three years, including R34m for “ferry flights” - those for which there are no passengers.

A series of written parliamentary replies from Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to questions asked by DA spokesman on defence David Maynier has revealed the high cost of transporting or collecting VIPs.

These included chartered aircraft, those operated by the SA Air Force reserve squadron, the VIP squadron and helicopter flights. Included in the cost of flying empty planes was an Airbus, chartered twice, at a cost of R4.5m.

Earlier this year, it emerged that an SAA Airbus A340-211 had “shadowed” the presidential jet Inkwazi to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, where the presidential jet stopped to refuel on its way to New York.

From there Inkwazi, which had recently undergone maintenance, flew solo to New York, while the Airbus returned to the country. - The Star