A South African Airways Airbus A320. Picture: SAA
A South African Airways Airbus A320. Picture: SAA

St Helena has invited South African airlines to bid for an air service on the South Atlantic route, which the island nation is under pressure to get operational in 2017.

St Helena needs the route to sustain what it views as a promising tourism market that could result in the island relying less on UK subsidies.

However, the route run by Comair has been suspended because of wind turbulence and safety concerns. Despite this, St Helena remains undeterred and is exploring the viability of a southern approach to its airport from May 2017, which would accommodate smaller aircraft.

Comair was using the volatile, northern approach to the airport, which made provision for large aircraft.

The new approach to St Helena Airport, which is not fully operational, will service the island’s 4,500 residents and provide support to the development of its tourist market, reads the invitation for proposals.

Comair CEO Erik Venter said the airline had provided its recommendations for a long-term probe of the use of the southern approach. "We remain very much engaged with the St Helena government and our discussions have been, and will continue to be, constructive and outcomes-focused."

Regional airline Airlink said it was considering submitting a proposal for the service.

Comair, which operates British Airways in SA and Kulula, was appointed to operate a service between Johannesburg and St Helena from May 2016, but operations did not commence.

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