St Helena flight pit-stops in Windhoek but locals can not board
The very first SA Airlink flight from Johannesburg to St Helena landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport on 16 October, to refuel for the second leg of its four-hour flight to reach the island. Initially, the planning was to allow passengers to board in Windhoek for St Helena but this has not materialised.
The flight to St Helena still makes a stop at Hosea Kutako but only to refuel. No passenger service is available for Namibians, or tourists in Namibia, to travel directly to St Helena. At this stage, all travel to the island must first go via South Africa.
The scheduled weekly flight to St Helena is the first step in a longer process that will soon see the retirement of the UK-registered mail ship that reached the island every three weeks.
Rodger Foster, Chief Executive Officer of Airlink informed the Economist that the idea of a Windhoek stop was that customers should be able to join the service at Windhoek during the technical stop.
“But this has not materialized because currently the technical stop at Windhoek entails refuelling only, and no passengers from Windhoek are able to board the flight,” he added.
He said that they are able to offer direct services between Cape Town and St Helena non-stop, which will make more sense in the event that customers are not able to join the service at Windhoek.
According to Foster, the Windhoek route is serviced once per week and Airlink is currently planning a second weekly flight.
“We are the only airline operating to St Helena and about 75 customers per week in each direction are currently availing of the service,” he said.
Furthermore, he said that the commencement of an air access service for St Helena has been the culmination of work in progress over many years and coincides with the planned discontinuation of services provided by the Royal Mail Ship RMS St Helena, which is overdue for retirement.
Foster meanwhile, hopes that the service, funded by the UK, will boost tourism and help make St Helena more self-sufficient.