SA Airlink's impending new commercial service between Johannesburg and St Helena will stop to refuel at Windhoek, according to a three-year contract signed on Friday between the airline and the St Helena Government (SHG).

Airlink also aims to connect Cape Town to St Helena by co-ordinating its flight schedules at Windhoek, says SA Airlink CEO, Rodger Foster. “Airlink’s flights between Cape Town and Windhoek have been timed so that minimum connection times will be complied with for the onward connection to St Helena (and vice versa).”

The airline has applied for both stopover and Fifth Freedom rights from the Namibian Aeronautical Authority. “Both are available in terms of the respective bilateral air services agreements between Namibia and South Africa and Namibia and the UK,” says Foster.

The best scenario is that both are granted, as this would enable Airlink customers arriving from a co-ordinated Airlink flight from Cape Town to St Helena (and vice versa) to change aircraft (transfer in transit) in Windhoek (via stopover rights), and separately customers originating their travel in Windhoek or connecting from other airlines would be able to board the flight in Windhoek (Fifth Freedom rights).

A start date for the service will be announced once Airlink has received regulatory approval for the service from the South African Civil Aviation Authority and has conducted a route-proving flight to the island.

According to SHG, the initial weekly service from OR Tambo International Airport will operate on a Saturday, using an Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft in two-class configuration (business and economy). The flight time from Johannesburg to St Helena will be about six hours 15 minutes, including a half-hour stop in Windhoek.

Airlink will also operate a charter service on the second Saturday of each month
between St Helena and Ascension Island.

SHG said information on the commencement date, ticket sales, cost of fares and sales distribution, including for Ascension Island, would be issued in due course.