“Velvet Sky, you are everything that a service provider should not be.” “Stay away from Velvet Sky. Unfit to fly after one week.” “Velvet Sky should be renamed Trouble Sky.” These were some of the comments from irate travellers who expressed their dissatisfaction about the new airline, a week after it took to the skies.

Ten days ago, some passengers experienced a seven-hour delay because the Durban-based budget airline had to find an alternative flight after its aircraft could not take off due to a technical fault.

The delay, unanswered phone calls, cancelled flights and website errors are some of the complaints that have been raised by customers.

Passengers and would-be passengers registered comments on the hellopeter.com website, a platform for consumers to compliment or complain about a service provider.

On the delay Paul Green, the director of flight operations at Velvet Sky, said OR Tambo International Airport was closed for an hour on Friday, February 25 due to major afternoon storms which delayed all passengers.

“On re-opening the airport, (we) detected a technical snag in the preflight checks and therefore made the crucial decision to prepare a standby plane to transport the passengers to their respective destinations.

“As a result of these delays, together with technical difficulty, (our) cabin crew and pilots managed to exceed their authorised flying time and the airline was therefore obligated to contact and fly in a new shift of crew members from Durban, thus increasing the delay even further,” Green said.

The SA Civil Aviation Authority said it had been informed that the airline had willingly, as a precaution, taken its aircraft to its maintenance organisation in order to check and possibly fix suspected technical faults.

The airline was launched two weeks ago and at the moment it uses one aircraft. Another two aircraft are expected next month and in June respectively. Green said Velvet Sky had contracts with other aircraft operators for a standby aircraft.

“However, it is impossible to have them keep all their aircraft on the ground 24 hours to cover an occurrence that happens seldom. We do our best to get them into position as soon as we detect a problem.”

Responding to the other grievances raised by passengers, he said: “There can be no doubt that every new business experiences teething problems, however, to our blameless passengers, we have no excuse.”

He said Velvet Sky noted the complaints and criticism relating to service problems and they would be dealt with accordingly. Velvet Sky flies the golden triangle between Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. The airline is owned by Macdonald Holdings which belongs to Cecil Reddy, the majority shareholder. The other shareholder is Dhevan Pillay. - Business Report