N Cape airline takes a nose dive
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Kimberley - Scheduled flights on the controversial Phakalane Airways airline have been discontinued, about 18 months after it was launched in the Northern Cape.
The contact number on the notice board of the closed offices at the Kimberley Airport as well as the website, is also out of service.
It is still, however, offering chartered flights to provincial government officials.
Phakalane Airways flew dignitaries attending the funeral of the MEC for Education and ANC Women’s League President, Grizelda Cjiekella-Lecholo, over the weekend.
They also flew Premier Sylvia Lucas to Upington last week.
The airline was launched in January 2014 to provide intra-provincial flights from Kimberley to Upington twice a day, three days per week and to Kimberley, Upington and Springbok twice a week.
It also offered unscheduled flights to Kuruman, De Aar, Lanseria, Calvinia and Sishen.
Ticket prices varied from R5 072 to R9 560 per passenger, depending on the destination, while the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison marketed the airline to be used by the general public.
Bookings were made through the department while the emblem of the Northern Cape Provincial government was emblazoned on the aircraft.
The department signed a 12-month contract where it was reportedly paying over R1-million per month for flights, including unoccupied seats.
An aviation service contract was entered into by the department, to provide the airline with start-up capital of R3-million.
After the pilot project came to an end in January, it was believed to have been renewed on a month-to-month basis.
While all civil servants in the Province were forced to make use of the service, many officials and MECs were apparently refusing to use the aircraft.
Government employees indicated that they were now being instructed to claim subsistence and travelling allowances to travel by road, although they were still under the impression that Phakalane Airways was still in operation.
The spokeswoman for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Keitumetse Moticoe, referred all enquiries relating to the closure of the offices and non-operation of flights to Phakalane Airways.
“The department does not disclose contractual matters with service providers to other parties. The Provincial government does not own the aircraft.”
She did not respond to enquiries regarding the total payments made to the airline or if there were any remaining contractual agreements.
CEO of Phakalane Airways, Allan Roebuck, attributed the reduction in flights due to the emerging competition consisting of Fly Blue Crane Airways that launched its maiden flight last week in the city. “They are also covering the same routes.”
However, Fly Crane Airways plan to service other routes, flying between Kimberley, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit.
Roebuck indicated that they would continue to provide services to the Northern Cape Provincial government on an ad hoc basis.
“The 19-seater aircraft is in our hangar in Johannesburg while the seven seater is still in Kimberley when the need arises for the provision of air services.”
He explained that they would continue to remain in the city to concentrate their energy on the flying academy in order to benefit the local community and offer training skills development.
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