Pas­sen­gers be­ar brunt of Bi­tou-Ce­mAir sa­ga

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News | Nuus - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

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.

March up­he­a­val

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.

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