Wonderboom Airport. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Wonderboom Airport. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Tshwane says Wonderboom National Airport running at huge loss

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Jul 27, 2021

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Pretoria - Wonderboom National Airport has been non-profitable for years, resulting in the metro having to fork out for the deficit, the City of Tshwane has said.

The City of Tshwane still has about a week in which to decide whether to grant a financial reprieve to flight-training schools based at airport.

However, in a synopsis of the impact of the aircrew flight training structure and the financial viability of the airport, it emerged the City had suffered a 224% loss this year alone in having to finance the airport.

The expenditure of the airport for this year so far was R58 630 766, with the revenue generated being R18 096 526.

The net-loss margins have been growing rapidly each financial year, with the 2019/20 financial year having the highest losses experienced since 2005, when there was a 434% loss.

It also emerged that the experienced net loss-margins imply that operations at Wonderboom Airport were heavily subsidised by the City’s fiscus year-on-year.

The total amount of capital expenditure at Wonderboom amounted to R343 688 529 to date.

The City said that for each rand of revenue generated by the airport in the 2020/21 financial year, it has provided R2.24 to cover the costs of operations.

The City then withdrew the 80% discount applicable to flight-training schools at this airport.

A number of training schools last week turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to interdict the City from implementing a tariff hike.

The parties agreed that the tariff would be placed on ice, pending the outcome of an internal appeal process instituted by the flight schools against the hike.

The City has about a week left in which it must decide on the internal appeal lodged by the schools.

The judge has also suspended the implementation of the new tariff. If the internal appeal was unsuccessful, the flight schools would have to chose to again turn to court for a review.

In an affidavit before court on behalf of the 10 training schools which train new pilots and aircrew, businessman Hendrik Kraai said the proposed 80% hike would cripple the industry.

He said that for the past 40 years flight schools which operate from Wonderboom only paid 20% of the applicable fees, which include take-off and landing fees.

He said the rationale for this was simple: commercial or leisure aircraft pay the standard fees as take-off and landing for these aircraft are far less frequent than in training.

In training a pilot takes off and lands several times a day. Thus, he said, training fees should apply.

He said the City has unilaterally without any public participation dedicated in its budget for 2021/22 to substantially increase these fees.

Kraaij said the fee hike would make pilot training at Wonderboom unaffordable and it marked the demise of all these flight schools and it might leave them with no alternative but to pack up and leave.

He said that apart from the fee hike having a detrimental effect on the flight schools, the City would also be affected if they left as they were all paying tenants at the airport.

Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the school had for four decades been given an 80% payment discount on standard tariffs.

“The City merely with effect from the 2021/22 financial year withdrew the discount, implying that standard rates will imply to all operators using the airport.”

Pretoria News

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