01 August will see Newcastle having scheduled flights to Johannesburg with SA airline carrier. This after a previous airliner operating in Newcastle closed its doors, last year.
Councillor Matthew Shunmugam, Portfolio Councillor for Development Planning and Human Settlements made this announcement following a visit to the town.
“The 28-seater plane will run scheduled flights to OR Tambo International Airport and while we do not have the rates yet, the airliner has assured us that it will be cheaper than the previous operator,” he said.
Cllr Shunmugam added that Newcastle Municipality had initially called for proposals from airliners. Following this, an SA Airlink delegation made up of 21 people, including the company’s CEO, Rodger Foster, together with senior management visited Newcastle. Shunmugam said the delegation visited the airport, toured Newcastle and met with business chambers to get an understanding of the area.
SA Airlink is the largest independent regional airline in the country with 21 years of experience under its name. This Shunmugam said, was a blessing as the airliner also advised the municipality on upgrades required for the airport to be civil aviation compliant.
“Fencing around the airport has to be a certain height for safety purposes and currently our airport is not complaint with this. However money has been made available from the province to acquire the proper fencing,” Shunmugam said.
Other upgrades required include installing scanners and safety equipment, a general revamp of the toilets and makeover of the building as well as 24-hour fire brigade service stationed at the airport.
Looking at the precinct area, the councillor made mention of the upcoming Techno-Hub which is projected to cost in the region of R600 million and is earmarked for skills and research development.
“Provincial treasury sourced R112 million from the Europian Union and this money will go towards infrastructure,” said Ferdie Alberts, the Director for Economic Development at the Newcastle Municipality.
Shunmugam said that the success of regular flights could lead to other destinations being introduced, as well as make way for the possibility of other services at the airport.