As travel in the country continues to rebound, Airlink has upgraded its aircraft for servicing Richards Bay Airport.
According to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), the carrier upgraded its aircraft servicing the airport following an increase in demand for passenger and cargo services.
ACSA revealed that Airlink, which operates flights between Richards Bay and more than 45 destinations within South Africa, will be upgrading to a larger aircraft, transitioning from the 29-seater British Aerospace Jetstream 41 to the 75-seater Embraer ERJ 170.
“The growing demand for passenger and cargo services at Richards Bay Airport has seen Airlink's fleet operating at full capacity, necessitating the upgrade,” said ACSA.
ACSA partnered with the Umhlathuze Municipality through a multi-year contract to manage the Richards Bay Airport after it remained closed for close to two years.
The partnership started in May 2021 and is scheduled to end in April 2026. It will see the transfer of skills among others, as well as bringing much-needed revitalisation of the local economy through the optimisation of the transport infrastructure, where ACSA will play a pivotal role.
“Since the reopening of the airport post-Covid 19, Airlink was the only carrier that returned to operate out of Richards Bay, servicing the Johannesburg-Richards Bay route, out of the three that previously operated from Richards Bay,” said ACSA.
The airport’s management company said that it’s recovery is largely driven by the rapid turnaround in domestic travel, which underscores the importance of this market's contribution to our business.
“In October 2023, 2 800 passengers were processed through the airport, which is a 230% increase since the airport re-opened its doors for business,” it said.
ACSA also noted that the aircraft upgrade is not only a milestone for Airlink but also crucial for the airport and the community of uMhlathuze.
It said that, with the increased seating capacity, there will be more opportunities for travel and enhanced cargo movement. But what’s more significant for ACSA is the alignment with the principles stated in the White Paper on National Civil Aviation Policy.
ACSA Regional General Manager, Nkosinathi Myataza, said airport development should not be considered in isolation but be integrated into all national, provincial and municipal economic and spatial development initiatives.
“At the same time, airport development should also meet the social needs and objectives of local communities. There should therefore be synergy between airport development and the development strategies of all spheres of government,” he said.
Richards Bay Local Airport Manager, Langa Ndebele, said Richards Bay Airport is an important airport in the region, facilitating the movement of goods and passengers from an economic hub of some considerable force.
“The role that the airport is playing in the continued economic development of this region is significant. The commencement of flights to and from Richards Bay is adding positive value to growing businesses in the city and also contributing to the success of the region’s leisure and tourism sector,” he said.
Ndebele said that this was a positive development that speaks to the robust and steady recovery of the domestic aviation sector.
“We wish Airlink all the best and may they see further growth and expansion in the future,” said Ndebele.