Airlink to bid for direct flights to St Helena
The regional carrier is upgrading its fleet to meet the rising demand for longer-haul destinations
Regional airline Airlink said on Monday it would submit a bid for a direct flight to St Helena island in the south Atlantic, as it continues with a fleet modernisation programme in order to open up longer distance destinations.
Airlink said on Monday it would submit a proposal to fly directly to St Helena, after announcing on Friday it would replace its current fleet of short-haul aircraft
The new fleet will include five Embraer E-Jets, which it said it would begin receiving in the first quarter of 2017, and 11 Embraer ERJ 140 aircraft, which have greater range and greater ability to operate at higher-altitude airports.
"The acquisition of E-Jets is aimed specifically at replacing Airlink’s fleet of Avro RJ85 aircraft. The E-Jets offer significantly more range than our RJ’s whilst also offering superior short field, hot and high, and wet runway operational performance," Airlink CEO Rodger Foster said on Monday.
The St Helena government has requested South African carriers begin a service to the isolated island from May 2017. SAA was asked in December to tender for the service.
The airport on the island has been deemed too risky for use by large aircraft, due to unforeseen problems with wind sheer.
It was built for the British government by South African construction group Basil Read, which has a 10-year contract to operate the airport.
Basil Read has said it is not to blame for the design debacle.
Airlink and Fly Blue Crane compete on the "secondary routes" — with the latter flying mainly between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kimberley and Bloemfontein.
Fly Blue Crane had already raised the possibility of entering business rescue in November after struggling to secure additional funding necessary to expand its route network.
"Fly Blue Crane is in the process of evaluating its routes as part of its re-engineering programme, including the fine-tuning of its schedules to some destinations during low seasons — such as the end-of-year break when business customers in some markets are away on holiday," the carrier said in a statement on Sunday.
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