Cape Town - St Helena Government and SA Airlink officially announced their agreement for the airline to provide scheduled commercial air services to St Helena Island, making the island's goal of air travel a reality.
Following negotiations with SA Airlink, the privately owned airline will also operate a monthly charter service between St Helena and Ascension Island.
Over the coming weeks, SA Airlink will be "finalising regulatory approvals with the South African Civil Aviation Authority. This will include a proving flight to the Island," says St Helena Government in a statement.
ALSO SEE: PICS: Aircraft makes technical stop at St Helena Airport
St Helena Government confirms that following the necessary approvals and proving flight, it will announce the commencement date for a service between St Helena Airport and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
According to St Helena Government, it is expected that the "monthly service between St Helena and Ascension Island will start soon after and operate on the second Saturday of each month".
Governor Lisa Phillips says "Very soon a trip to South Africa, for St Helenians, will take a matter of hours rather than days. And we will be able to welcome tourists here in larger numbers and improve the economy of the Island and offer a better life for those who live here."
In the meantime, St Helena Airport is making progress with the development of its fuel facility and installation of walkways.
Flying to St Helena from Johannesburg or Cape Town
Once the official commencement date is announced, the initial weekly service on a Saturday will be operated using an Embraer E190-100IGW aircraft - offering business class and economy seats - with the flight time from Johannesburg to St Helena being approximately 6 hours and 15 minutes. This includes a 30 minute stop at Windhoek International Airport in Namibia, before the flight continues to St Helena Airport.
Airlink’s CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster, says "Airlink is confident that our Embraer E190 ETOPS certified aircraft is most suited to the demanding environmental conditions prevalent at St Helena and that we will establish a safe and reliable air bridge between St Helena and South Africa - thereby creating air linkages between St Helena and the rest of the world by way of the inter-connectivity offered at Johannesburg.
SEE: St Helena chooses SA Airlink to service the island
On the return route, the flight will stop over at Windhoek before returning to Johannesburg. On both legs of the journey there will be an opportunity at Windhoek to use a connecting flight to and from Cape Town, giving passengers the flexibility to go to either destination.
“We are pleased to be able to connect both Cape Town and Johannesburg to St Helena by way of designed flight coordination at Windhoek. We acknowledge that Cape Town is an important destination for Saints and we recognise that Cape Town enjoys significant tourism visitations growing at 30% annually which could become an important source market for St Helena’s tourism aspirations,” adds Foster.
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The agreement with Airlink is for three years from the date of the first flight.
Flight bookings and costs, including for Ascension Island, will be announced in due course. "The fares offered are anticipated to be the same or similar between Johannesburg and St Helena and Cape Town and St Helena," adds St Helena Government.
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