MISMANAGEMENT at Bitou Municipality has been identified as the reason the Plettenberg Bay airport lost its commercial status resulting in airline CemAir halting operations after seven years.
On Tuesday, CemAir announced that with immediate effect all of its flights to Plettenberg Bay would be suspended, affecting both the Johannesburg and Cape Town services. Flights will now be redirected to the George Airport, which is nearly 100km away.
In a statement CemAir said records revealed that the reason for the suspension was failure to address outstanding issues that came from inspections conducted by the SA Civil Aviation Authority.
“Although written undertakings with specified time-frames were provided to the SACAA to address shortcomings, these undertakings were not met. Bitou Municipality had both a statutory and contractual obligation to correct the issues however has not done so and at the time of writing has made no commitment to address the issues,” read the statement.
“It is unclear why the SACAA’s decision, although based on long outstanding issues, was made with almost no notice.
“CemAir’s service to Plettenberg Bay was launched in 2014 and we have operated a few thousand flights into the Airport carrying in excess of 90 000 passengers over the 7 years. The service created jobs directly and indirectly and contributed to the growth of the town.”
Political parties in the area have blamed Bitou municipality’s ineffectiveness for the airport losing its commercial status.
Bitou municipality has been in turmoil since the axing of then Mayor Peter Lobese back in April which has led to numerous court battles as council struggles to appoint a new mayor.
The DA’s Constituency Chairperson, Dave Swart said:“The DA in Bitou is disappointed and frustrated at the inactivity of Bitou Municipality in addressing many outstanding, accumulating findings highlighted by the SACAA over the past months.”
“Last week after the SACAA report of June, 28, 2021 came t the DA’s attention, we raised our concern to the Municipal Manager that Plettenberg Bay was at risk of losing the commercial status of the airport because of a lack of action and these and previous outstanding findings, especially those related to training.
“We believe that the outstanding findings are not difficult to address as they relate to records, training, inspections, etc. What is of real issue are the empty promises and lack of progress on attending to the findings,”
President of the Ikhwezi Political Movement Nokuzola Kolwaphi said: “Once again, the failure and inefficiency of our management in Bitou Municipality has resulted in jobs being lost, investment loss and infrastructure being left unmaintained.”
“It is sad that Bitou management does not see the value of Plettenberg having an airport that can link our tourist dependent town to Cape Town and Johannesburg. The economic value of an airport for bringing tourists is highly valuable.”