Airlink has announced on Wednesday that it will be pulling all flights to and from Polokwane Airport in Limpopo, citing ‘safety concerns’ at the travel hub. According to the airline, the facility has been downgraded by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) – undermining the welfare of passengers and employees alike.

On Tuesday, SACAA decided to relegate Polokwane Airport to CAT2. That means that the venue is unable to provide a satisfactory level of emergency services, should there be an incident on the tarmac. Spooked by this dubious oversight, Airlink then announced the immediate cancellation of its services to the popular runway.

“SACAA advised last night that with immediate effect the Polokwane Airport had been de-categorized to CAT2 – which is below the minimum level required for scheduled commercial air services. The current status of the airport presents as an operational safety concern and it would be illegal to operate scheduled services at the airport.”

“In the circumstances, most regrettably, Airlink has had to cancel its services today. We are unable to ascertain at this stage whether the airport will meet the minimum requirements for future services. Customers will be contacted directly, and an update will be provided as soon as Airlink receives more information from the Polokwane airport.”

Polokwane Airport branded ‘unsafe’ by airline

The airline has since released a follow-up statement, bemoaning the lack of communication from both SACAA and Polokwane Airport officials. Plans to explore an alternative destination near the city have also hit a stumbling block.

According to Airlink…

  • – Polokwane Airport did not advise Airlink of the impending threat of de-categorization beforehand.
  • – The airport is ‘unable to provide the minimum level of emergency services’ required to maintain its license category’.
  • – Airlink has looked into the possibility of operating at the nearby Pietersburg Civil Aerodrome – but that’s also off-limits.

It remains unclear if other airlines will follow suit. While Polokwane Airport isn’t the busiest airport in South Africa, it does serve as a vital point of travel for those based in Limpopo. Airlink, which operates flights all across the sub-Saharan part of the continent, has confirmed that all customers will be entitled to refund.

Furthermore, due to the ongoing pandemic, Airlink has had to suspend their “Lodge Link System” – a service that provides air shuttle services from Skukuza and Nelspruit, to Londolozi, Arathusa, Ngala, Phinda, and Ulusaba game lodges.

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Presh JM Reporter

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