Bid to expand Nelson Mandela Bay air links to boost trade and tourism
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality is in talks with three airlines about adding new flight routes to and from Port Elizabeth.
These include international routes to and from Namibia and Zimbabwe.
It is part of the municipality’s airlift project to bring more business and visitors to the Bay.
Included in the discussions, is the possibility of adding direct flights to Mpumalanga as well as increasing the number of flights to and from Durban and Bloemfontein.
While city officials were reluctant to divulge details, they said the metro had identified Namibia and Harare as “key priority markets for trade and tourism”.
The municipality’s economic development boss, Anele Qaba, said they were targeting existing airlines in South Africa.
“This will unlock the seamless mobility of people, goods and services in and out of the city, and reduce travel time to the city and the cost of travel to trade and tourism.
“New airline activities not only bring people and goods into our city, they also create jobs, directly and indirectly, along the value chain.”
He said the negotiations were sensitive, but that the new routes could save people from having to take connecting flights to either Cape Town or Johannesburg.
One of three airlines – Kulula, Cemair and SAX – could fill the gap left when SA Express cut flights to Port Elizabeth in 2017.
As part of the city’s airlift project, the municipality is trying to find ways to address the exorbitant cost of flights to and from Port Elizabeth by offering incentives to airlines.
However, the incentive programme with various packages is yet to be developed.
Qaba said the incentive support was associated with landing fees and other airportrelated charges.
In a report to the economic development, tourism and agriculture committee, Qaba wrote that the cessation of some SA Express flights had caused an outcry from passengers and business.
He said statistics showed that a direct flight to Mpumalanga was necessary.
“We have people that are coming through from Mpumalanga, especially tourists who come to visit the Addo Elephant Park and other areas.
“The statistics show that they come [mainly] from Mpumalanga.
“From the numbers we have seen, that route needs to be introduced,” Qaba said.
Discussions would also start between the city and smaller regional airlines.
“We will be speaking to all the regional airlines.
“People have been complaining about the lack of [adequate] flights to East London, Bloemfontein and Kimberley.
“Someone who wants to travel to these towns has to go via Johannesburg and so we want those regional airlines to close the gap,” Qaba said.
“We will also be engaging on reinforcing the existing lines, for example East London,” Qaba said.
The report on the airlift project states that the municipality signed a service level agreement with Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, Airports Company South Africa, and the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber in June 2018.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Nomkhita Mona said increasing the routes and number of flights to and from the Port Elizabeth Airport would be of immense benefit to the city.
“The cessation of certain routes to and from Port Elizabeth has hampered tourism and business-related travel, and it is our hope that this project will not only counteract this but improve our previous offering significantly.
“We believe that, aside from the immense benefit to the tourism sector, this project will unlock a larger economic impact,” Mona said.
“If more airlines include Port Elizabeth in their route offerings, it would necessitate investment in the expansion of the airport.”
She said the chamber was pleased with the progress that had been made so far.
“The increased traffic could also bring more competitive pricing into play as more airlines become involved.”..