Plettenberg Bay airport has been officially reopened – with CemAir flights restarting Friday

Business Insider SA

Plettenberg Bay airport flights
Alien vegetation cleared from Plettenberg Bay airport (Image used with permission: Plettenberg Bay Airport-PBZ, Facebook)
  • Plettenberg Bay airport was downgraded by the Civil Aviation Authority in August, citing "severe outstanding non-compliances."
  • An agreement between the privately owned airline, CemAir, and the airport's licensee, Bitou Local Municipality, saw the airport undergoing major upgrades over the past three months.
  • CemAir which has a vested interest in the airport's reopening reportedly spent R1 million on various upgrades.
  • On Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Authority announced that Plettenberg Bay airport's Category 4 licence would be reinstated with immediate effect.
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Plettenberg Bay's airport license, which was downgraded in August, has been reinstated to resume commercial operations. CemAir, the privately owned airline which was pivotal in upgrading the airport, will resume its flights on Friday.

Visitors to South Africa's Garden Route will be able to fly to and from Plettenberg Bay airport, after the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) announced on Tuesday the findings of its latest inspection.

After being closed to commercial flights for three months, Plettenberg Bay airport has had its Category 4 licence reinstated with immediate effect.

"Plettenberg Bayairport has satisfactorily addressed most of the severe non-compliances," noted the SACAA report issued on Tuesday.

The relicensing comes after CemAir, which has a vested interested in the airport's functionality as the only commercial airline in South Africa with a regular flightpath to Plettenberg Bay, entered into an agreement with the Bitou Local Municipality.

The agreement saw Bitou Local Municipality, the airports licensee, and CemAir, working together to return the airport to SACAA standard in time for the busy festive season.

CemAir reportedly pumped R1 million into the upgrade, which included clearing around 10 hectares of alien vegetation, facilitating the painting of new runway markings, and getting the airport's records in order.

Although the airport's licence has been reinstated, the SACAA has identified one outstanding "severe finding" which needs to be addressed.

"The aerodrome has never conducted a full emergency exercise as required. The airport management has started table top exercises in preparation for the full-scale emergency exercise," the SACAA report stated.

"Plettenberg Bay airport management to commit to a date on which the full-scale Emergency Exercise will be conducted to close severe finding."

The outstanding issue will not halt CemAir's restart on Friday.

The airport's reopening comes just in time for the busy summer season, which traditionally sees both local and international tourists flock to the Garden Route.

"I think the reopening has come just in time, a combined effort between CemAir and the Bitou Municipality," Patty Butterworth, the CEO of Plett Tourism, told Business Insider South Africa.

"The pandemic has taught the travel industry that people are now more patient and less impulsive when it comes to travel. Plettenberg Bay is a luxury travel destination, booking scheduled flights with CemAir is convenient and affordable, in comparison to flying into George, for most coming during this holiday season."

Butterworth added that CemAir and the airport also "provide a crucial marketing function for the town" which, in turn, adds further value to the Garden Route.

"We estimate at least a 70% occupancy in comparison to a 100% occupancy we experienced pre-Covid," said Butterworth in reference the area's tourism prospects.

"The majority of our holiday-makers during Plett Summer are local, the majority of our international guests tend to arrive late January or early February. We do expect an influx of internationals as in previous pre-Covid years, however, we are realistic that we may not achieve those exact numbers."

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