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Passengers left stranded in city

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‘Kimberley is the business hub for the Northern Cape and now we are sitting with only one airline ’

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STRANDED SA Express passengers in Kimberley were yesterday forced to make alternative arrangements after the shock news broke that all the airline’s planes had been grounded.

Angry passengers lined up at the SA Express counter at the Kimberley Airport in an attempt to get clarity about what to do next.

One passenger said they were forced to stay over in the city and were hoping to make arrangements to travel to Bloemfontein to catch a flight to Johannesburg.

Others said that they were able to make arrangements with SA Airlink to fly to Cape Town last night and would then fly to Johannesburg this morning.

“This whole thing is costing us an arm and a leg,” one passenger pointed out.

“The airline could have done a far better job of communicating the situation to its passengers. We have had to make all our arrangements ourselves without any assistance from the company. It’s highly unlikely that we will be able to recoup our losses from the airline.”

Another passenger said it would now be an ever bigger inconvenience to fly to Kimberley. “We struggled with two airlines, now there is only one.”

SA Express said it would accommodate stranded passengers overnight in Kimberley last night.

“However, from today passengers will have to make their own arrangements.”

The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci), Sharon Steyn, said that although they were disappointed that the airline had been grounded, the writing had been on the wall for a long time.

“This has been coming for a long time.

“Members of the business chamber and government have been supporting SA Express and we were concerned about the manner in which the airline was operating.

“Many fights were late and people lost business as a result. The airline never took the chamber into its confidence to reveal what was truly happening,” said Steyn.

She added that the loss of flights would have a major impact on the local business community.

“There are many business people who fly to and from Kimberley on a daily basis. Kimberley is the business hub for the Northern Cape and now we are sitting with only one airline how is that going to meet the needs of the city? The situation is worrisome.”

Steyn said that Nocci was in discussion with other airlines.

“We saw the signs that this might happen and we have been in communication with other airlines to fly to Kimberley.

“Those talks are, however, not concluded,” she said.

SA Express offered five flights a day on weekdays between Johannesburg and Kimberley, as well as one on Saturday and two on Sunday.

SA Airlink flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kimberley will still continue.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) announced yesterday afternoon that it had taken a decision to suspend SA Express’ Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) as well as the airline’s Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) approvals.