Ce­mAir ai­r­bor­ne a­gain from P­lett

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

Af­ter a mas­si­ve pu­blic out­cry, the Bi­tou Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty has back­trac­ked on its de­ci­si­on to kick Ce­mAir out of the P­let­ten­berg Bay Ai­r­port.

The de­ci­si­on fol­lows a meet­ing held be­t­ween Bi­tou’s exe­cu­ti­ve ma­na­ge­ment and Ce­mAir on 22 March.

Mu­ni­ci­pal spo­kes­per­son Man­fred van Rooy­en said a de­ci­si­on had been ma­de to wit­h­draw the “sus­pen­si­on of acti­vi­ties of Ce­mAir” with im­me­di­a­te ef­fect sub­ject to the sub­mis­si­on of SA Ci­vil A­vi­a­ti­on Aut­ho­ri­ty (SACAA) ap­pro­val cer­ti­fi­ca­tes re­gar­ding the ai­r­wor­thi­ness of the ai­r­craft being u­ti­li­sed by Ce­mAir.

O­pe­ra­tor ‘may use the ai­r­port’

“Ce­mAir may use the ai­r­port si­mi­lar to that of a nor­mal c­lient or u­ser, paying the ap­pli­ca­ble ap­pro­ved lan­ding and par­king fees and the mat­ter of pas­sen­ger fees pa­y­a­ble will be in­ves­ti­ga­ted, a­wai­ting a re­port from Ce­mAir in­di­ca­ting the con­tri­bu­ti­on of the car­rier in t­his re­gard,” Van Rooy­en said.

He ad­ded that the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty took no­te that the o­pe­ra­tor’s ac­count was being dis­pu­ted by Ce­mAir. “A de­ci­si­on was al­so ma­de that the acting mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger ta­bles a com­pre­hen­si­ve re­port to coun­cil, de­tailing the chro­no­lo­gy of e­vents sin­ce Ce­mAir star­ted with its o­pe­ra­ti­ons in March 2014. The re­port will in­clu­de the as­pect of the ac­count being dis­pu­ted as a re­sult of an al­le­ged ab­sen­ce of an agreement.”

Agreement in dis­pu­te

T­his is the la­test de­ve­lop­ment fol­lo­wing the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s an­noun­ce­ment just o­ver a week ago that it had gi­ven Ce­mAir notice to ce­a­se o­pe­ra­ti­ons at the lo­cal ai­r­port af­ter the o­pe­ra­tor al­le­ge­d­ly fai­led to ho­nour an agreement with the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

Ce­mAir has, ho­we­ver, in the me­an­ti­me dis­pu­ted the claims and the is­sue has s­par­ked ma­jor pu­blic out­cry.

On 27 March 2014, the o­pe­ra­tor sta­ted, Ce­mAir signed a writ­ten agreement with the Bi­tou Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty for the pro­vi­si­on of a sche­du­led air ser­vi­ce to P­lett by ma­king use of the ai­r­port.

‘Litt­le main­te­nan­ce at ai­r­port’

“The agreement out­li­ned the terms of use of the a­e­ro­dro­me and ga­ve Ce­mAir use of the fa­ci­li­ties at no cost. Litt­le main­te­nan­ce had been per­for­med at the ai­r­port in the pre­vi­ous de­ca­de and sub­stan­ti­al im­pro­vements we­re re­qui­red. The no-fee struc­tu­re was an es­sen­ti­al pre­re­qui­si­te for Ce­mAir to launch the ser­vi­ce and ma­ke the ne­ces­sa­ry in­fra­struc­tu­ral up­gra­des to the ai­r­port. The en­ti­re cost of re­sto­ring the fa­ci­li­ty rested with Ce­mAir,” the o­pe­ra­tor’s sta­te­ment re­ad.

The o­pe­ra­tor furt­her sta­ted in Fe­bru­a­ry last y­e­ar, Ce­mAir pro­po­sed new terms for the use of the ai­r­port which in­clu­ded a fi­ve-y­e­ar mi­ni­mum le­a­se and a fixed fee ar­ran­ge­ment which was to be go­ver­ned by a new for­mal agreement.

‘No new agreement’

“Alt­hough the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty un­der­took to ne­go­ti­a­te the new agreement, t­his ne­ver took pla­ce and the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty be­ca­me un­re­spon­si­ve to en­qui­ries. The mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty did, ho­we­ver, at­tempt to u­ni­la­te­ral­ly accept the pay­ment of­fer from Ce­mAir wit­hout bin­ding them­sel­ves to any du­ra­ti­on or per­for­man­ce o­bli­ga­ti­ons as out­li­ned in the of­fer. It is t­his a­mount they now seek to re­co­ver as the so-cal­led ‘pro­vi­si­ons of an agreement that Ce­mAir has not ho­nou­red’,” it said.

Fol­lo­wing the re­ver­sal of the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s i­ni­ti­al de­ci­si­on, Ce­mAir says the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s la­test me­dia sta­te­ment, a­bout the wit­h­dra­wal, pro­vi­ded no re­a­son for the de­ci­si­on.

‘Le­gal ba­sis un­cle­ar’

“Si­mi­lar­ly, the ‘sus­pen­si­on let­ter’ re­cei­ved by Ce­mAir on 14 March 2018 pro­vi­ded no re­a­son for the sus­pen­si­on it­self,” the o­pe­ra­tor said in a sta­te­ment.

“It is un­cle­ar on w­hat le­gal ba­sis Bi­tou re­lied upon w­hen, wit­hout notice, it sus­pen­ded the o­pe­ra­ti­ons … os­ten­si­bly on the ba­sis of a fee dis­pu­te.”

Ce­mAir furt­her sta­ted the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s “ma­nu­fac­tu­red ur­gen­cy to act so dras­ti­cal­ly” did not in­clu­de any at­tempt to re­sol­ve the mat­ter with Ce­mAir or any con­sul­ta­ti­on with af­fected or in­te­rested pu­blic par­ties such as P­lett Tou­rism, the lo­cal ra­te­pay­ers’ as­so­ci­a­ti­ons and ot­her com­mu­ni­ty groups. “T­his flies in the fa­ce of the phi­loso­phies of de­mo­cra­cy.”

O­pe­ra­tor ‘can’t car­ry all cos­ts’

Ce­mAir said they no­ted the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s man­da­te to col­lect re­ve­nue and high­lig­ht the e­qual­ly weig­h­ted man­da­te to dis­char­ge its o­bli­ga­ti­on of ser­vi­ce de­li­very. “Ce­mAir is ab­so­lu­te­ly wil­ling to pay re­a­so­na­ble fees for the use of the ai­r­field but t­his can­not be do­ne in ad­di­ti­on to paying o­pe­ra­ti­o­nal cos­ts that should be paid by the ai­r­port li­cen­see to a­chie­ve re­gu­la­to­ry com­pli­an­ce and ba­sic functi­o­na­li­ty. The o­pe­ra­ti­on of an ai­r­port re­qui­res on­going ma­na­ge­ment, ad­mi­nis­tra­ti­on and in­ves­t­ment. The u­ser fees col­lected need to be u­sed to pro­vi­de main­te­nan­ce and up­keep of the fa­ci­li­ty.”

O­pen skies po­li­cy ap­plies

The o­pe­ra­tor furt­her sta­ted the Bi­tou coun­cil re­sol­ved on 28 Fe­bru­a­ry 2018 to in­vi­te ot­her com­mer­ci­al ai­r­li­nes to con­duct o­pe­ra­ti­ons to and from the ai­r­port.

“South A­fri­ca has an o­pen skies po­li­cy and any ai­r­li­ne which is li­cen­sed and e­quip­ped is free to con­duct flig­hts to P­let­ten­berg Bay. Com­pe­ti­ti­on laws re­qui­re that all ai­r­li­nes be of­fe­red the sa­me terms. That said, the re­a­li­ty is that P­let­ten­berg Bay is a thin and mar­gi­nal rou­te and that it is un­li­ke­ly to sup­port mo­re than one car­rier. Bi­tou would be well gui­ded to nur­tu­re w­hat has been built o­ver the last four y­e­ars with Ce­mAir and do e­ver­y­thing in its po­wer to en­s­u­re the town does not lo­se its ai­r­li­ne ser­vi­ce as was the ca­se for the de­ca­de be­fo­re Ce­mAir’s ser­vi­ce com­men­ced.”

‘Pro­found e­co­no­mic spin-offs’

“The ai­r­li­ne ser­vi­ce in­to P­let­ten­berg Bay has had a pro­found im­pact on the e­co­nomy of the town. It is es­ti­ma­ted that mo­re than 100 hou­se­holds ha­ve re­lo­ca­ted to P­lett as a re­sult of the im­pro­ved con­necti­vi­ty. Tou­rism has be­ne­fi­ted dra­ma­ti­cal­ly with in­cre­a­sed occu­pan­cy le­vels and the con­structi­on of ad­di­ti­o­nal ac­com­mo­da­ti­on.

“Buil­ding and con­structi­on com­pa­nies in ge­ne­ral ha­ve seen a mar­ked in­cre­a­se in pro­jects and estate a­gents ha­ve re­cor­ded re­cord y­e­ars of sa­les. As a re­sult, an es­ti­ma­ted 700 jobs ha­ve been cre­a­ted. The ser­vi­ce is a vi­tal u­ti­li­ty for the town and key for its con­ti­nu­ed gro­wth.”

P­ho­to: E­wald S­tan­der)

Newspapers in Afrikaans

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.