Plettenberg Bay Airport (PBZ) will need to undertake substantial upgrades to runway and related facilities, emergency and fire services, and security and related services before commercial airlines will put forward proposals to conduct operations at the airport for a lease period of five years, says Kabelo Ledwaba, Manager: Communications of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

However, SACAA feels that the upgrades are doable and is ready, willing and able to assist all parties concerned to realise this exciting prospect. 

“It is good news indeed to hear that this particular part of our country is ripe and rightfully earmarked for increased air transport activity. It therefore goes without saying that the SACAA will provide the necessary support to both air operators and the airport licence holder,” says Ledwaba. He adds that, over and above ensuring safe and secure civil aviation operations in South Africa and by South African aviation licence-holders, SACAA is also mandated to develop the civil aviation industry.

According to Ledwaba, SACAA envisaged the development of Plettenberg Bay Airport and has already proactively started the process of engaging the airport operator on the areas that it would need to improve to accommodate an anticipated increase in air traffic and passenger numbers. “In simple terms, the airport licence-holder would first need to upgrade its licence category status in terms of safety and security before the increased volumes of schedules can commence.”

Refilwe Masemola, Head of Department: Communications of SA Express, confirms that SA Express will not be submitting a proposal to operate flights to PBZ, but did not supply a reason why. Rodger Foster, CEO and MD of Airlink, believes that there is a viable and sustainable market at PBZ and says Airlink will consider putting forward a proposal if the airport undergoes the proposed upgrades. He explains that Airlink would only be able to operate its larger, four-engine Avro RJ85 aircraft to PBZ if the upgrades go ahead.