Home Opinion & Features Wonderboom Airport is of real concern

Wonderboom Airport is of real concern

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SAA last made a profit 10 years ago and since then billions of taxpayers’ money has been pumped into the state-owned enterprise to prop it up

Last week the Pretoria News carried a front page report under the headline “Airport’s Gone to the Dogs”.

What some reading this may be thinking is: what has this to do with us? But, coupled with the problems at state-owned national carrier South African Airways, the situation at Wonderboom airport is a concern.

Having a good national airport infrastructure, safe operational protocols and technical support are as important as having planes and pilots to fly them.

And Pretoria, the capital city, really should have a properly-functioning domestic airport to supplement OR Tambo International and Lanseria.

For years Wonderboom has been mired in problems; Airlink pulled out of operating there in 2008 and it has been downgraded by the Civil Aviation Authority from category 5 to category 2.

At a time when SAA needs passengers, they are abandoning it for other options – many of them cheaper – with photos posted on social media showing how empty some of its international flights have become.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week he does not agree with the business rescue plan to cut domestic flights, leaving only the Joburg-Cape Town route operational, while Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe commented that the airline is elitist, is costing the taxpayer too much money, and should be sold to someone who can manage it.

But business rescue practitioners have defended their decisions as being in the best interest of SAA if they are to turn it around and make it commercially viable and sustainable.

SAA last made a profit 10 years ago and since then billions of taxpayers’ money has been pumped into the state-owned enterprise to prop it up.

While we must give the business rescue practitioners the chance to do their work, the end of SAA as we knew it is nigh. The question is whether we really need a national carrier or, like many other countries, can do better without it.