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‘Incompetent’ airline slammed

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Anger after plane grounded

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KIMBERLEY passengers flying to Johannesburg were delayed yesterday when their SA Express flight was grounded after the pilot was apparently unable to start the engines.

Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) CEO, Sharon Steyn, said that this was unacceptable.

“This is not the first time. Our business people are suffering as a result of the incompetence of the airline. I can understand that today’s problem was a bit out of the ordinary, but what I fail to understand is that there is no contingency plan in place. They know, like everything else, maintenance is essential,” Steyn said.

She added that Kimberley business people were suffering because they had no other option but to make use of SA Express and SA Airlink.

“We don’t have any alternative airlines offering flights out of Kimberley and it is not always feasible to travel five hours to Johannesburg by car. Not only are our business people inconvenienced, but also those travelling into the city. We don’t have a lot of flights leaving the city and locals need to go to Johannesburg in order to fly to other parts of the country.”

The worst part, Steyn said, was that passengers weren’t informed of the delays.

It is believed that SA Express will be cutting flights to the city and changing its times. “It will be a hard blow if this has to happen,” she said.

A city resident who often flies between Kimberley, Johannesburg and Cape Town said that she has missed many business meetings because of the inconsistency of the flights.

“Sometimes I have an early morning meeting and have had to cancel the trip because the flight has been delayed. Other times I have missed connecting flights to Cape Town. When this happens I struggle to get ticket refunds and I don’t even bother anymore.”

In May last year, the authority announced the suspension of SA Express’ air operator’s certificate and the certificates of airworthiness (CoA) of nine of the 21 aircraft being operated by the airline.

In its statement issued at the time, SA Express assured the public and its customers that it had focused intensely on addressing the root causes that led to its grounding.

The airline added that it had restructured the internal processes that led to the grounding.

Following the grounding, South African Airways (SAA) announced an extended schedule as part of interventions to sustain the SA Express network.

At the time, SAA announced a replacement capacity schedule for a year with partner airlines so as to support SA Express passengers.