Pretoria - A 72-hour countdown has begun towards the first commercial flight taking off from Wonderboom National Airport, north of Pretoria, since 2010.
There had been concerns that the plans had been put on hold due to an apparent fuel shortage, but this was quashed by the city. It said at the time it was in talks with Air British Petroleum over the procurement of fuel at the airport.
But all doubts would be a distant memory on Sunday when the maiden commercial flight takes to the sky, mayoral spokesperson Blessing Manale said.
It was all systems go for the introduction of scheduled flights at the airport as services are expected to commence from August 16.
The initial planning to reintroduce scheduled flights to and from Wonderboom Airport started with the acceptance of the October 2004 Airport Development Plan by the city, said Manale.
The now refurbished airport first opened its doors to commercial planes in the early 1990s and again in 2010, but that only lasted for three months.
Interlink Airlines, the small airline which operated flights at the time, was subsequently placed into provisional liquidation.
Municipal spokesman Selby Bokaba said the situation this time around was different because the right aircraft would used, services professional and well planned, staff dedicated, and the entire operation had been properly marketed.
For business class travellers, Airlink will offer an intra-continental style business class service on its 83-seater Avro RJ85 quad jet aircraft which will be used to operate on the route. Travellers on the new service will be able to earn Voyager Frequent Flyer loyalty miles.
South African Airways (SAA) and Airlink have now entered into a commercial joint venture to provide new scheduled air services at the airport.
SA Airlink will operate the flights, three of them between 6am and 10pm.
SAA acting chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout said: “Connecting the two historically significant South African cities, Pretoria, the capital city, and Cape Town, the Mother City, is an exciting development on our domestic route network. We believe it will be popular with leisure and business travellers.”
Airlink’s Rodger Foster said: “We are immensely excited by expanding our relationship with SAA, and with the opportunity to link our most important South African cities by air.
“This is a first for the country and we are pleased that our customers can benefit from this.”
Initially, the services will operate between Wonderboom and Cape Town, with three flights scheduled a day.
City mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa announced in May that commercial flights would be available from Wonderboom Airport to Cape Town International from August.
He encouraged local businesses to upgrade their guest houses, lodges and B&Bs as the airport would bring about a major boost to the city’s tourism.
More money would be spent within the municipal area, contributing towards the city’s GDP, economic growth and job creation, he said.
At least 2.3 million passengers are expected to make use of the airport.
“Approximately 40 percent of domestic users of Oliver Tambo International Airport, stay within a radius of 25km around Wonderboom,” said Ramokgopa.
Residents of the capital and nearby towns such as Rustenburg, Bela Bela and Polokwane are expected to benefit from the service.
The commercial flights are expected to improve direct accessibility of the municipal area to other larger urban centres, starting with Cape Town.
Ramokgopa said there was a strong link between Cape Town and the city “especially from a government office and business relations point of view”.
The services will reduce travel time and also travel costs for local residents required to travel to the Mother City and vice versa.
“It will start to contribute towards creating more capacity for OR Tambo to concentrate on the movement of larger aircraft,” said Ramokgopa.