Passengers bear brunt of Bitou-CemAir saga
Passengers flying on CemAir from Plettenberg Bay over the Easter weekend had to be transported to George to board there after the Bitou Municipality allegedly failed to sign off on an airport upgrade.
CemAir chief executive Miles van der Molen explained that flights had been scheduled several months ago to operate the carrier’s 78-seater Dash 8-Q400 aircraft over the Easter weekend to accommodate the influx of passengers over the busy period.
Failure to sign off approval
He further said in order to operate this larger aircraft the airport had to be upgraded to a category five level – an upgrade CemAir accomplished at the operator’s expense. To finalise the upgrade the Bitou Municipality needed to sign off on the approval.
“We had a written undertaking from Gert Groenewald of the Bitou Municipality that the council meeting on 28 February 2018 would be used to sign off the approval for the airport upgrade. We now know that what was instead tabled was the motion to ban us from the airfield. The upgrade was not even mentioned,” Van der Molen said.
Peak flights moved to George
He added that they had done all they could to move flights to smaller aircraft operating in Plettenberg Bay, but the peak flights were booked well in advance and the only way they could move the passengers on these days was to operate through the George airport.
CemAir therefore asked passengers to arrive at Plettenberg Bay Airport three hours before their flights and arranged for them to be transported to George.
This repercussion came in the wake of the Bitou Municipality “severing ties” with the operator last month and a week later backtracking on its decision.
The municipality announced on 19 March that it had given CemAir notice to cease operations at the Plettenberg Bay Airport after the operator allegedly failed to honour an agreement with the municipality.
CemAir disputed the claims stating there was a written agreement between the parties on 27 March 2014 for the provision of a scheduled air service from the Plettenberg Bay Airport. As part of the agreement there was a no-fee structure, as CemAir made all the necessary infrastructural upgrades to airport at the operator’s own expense.
In an earlier statement, CemAir said that in February last year it had proposed a five-year minimum lease and a fixed fee arrangement, but that this was never finalised.
Just over a week after the decision to ban CemAir from the airport, the municipality announced that it had withdrawn the “suspension of activities of CemAir” with immediate effect.
This 78-seater Dash 8-Q400 could not operate from Plettenberg Bay as the Bitou Municipality allegedly failed to sign off on an airport upgrade.