South Atlantic island of St Helena gets flight route
South Africa Airlink will offer scheduled commercial air services to St Helena when it starts flights between South Africa and St Helena later this year.
This follows a period of contractual negotiations between St Helena Government and the airline.
Initially Airlink is expected to offer a weekly Saturday service to-and-from South Africa to St Helena using the new Embraer E190-100IGW ETOPS certified aircraft. To begin with, the maximum number of seats available on each flight will be 76.
Currently the aircraft is planned to depart Johannesburg each Saturday morning at 09:00 local time and fly to Windhoek in Namibia where it will refuel and connect with an incoming Airlink service from Cape Town that will have departed at 10:30.
Passengers will then fly on to St Helena landing on the Island at 13:15. Total flight time from Johannesburg and Cape Town to St Helena will be just over 6 hours, including the stop at Windhoek. Flight time from Windhoek to St Helena is 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The return flight to South Africa will depart on Saturdays from St Helena at 14:30 and again fly to Windhoek where passengers will be able to connect with an Airlink service to Cape Town or fly on to Johannesburg. The flight is expected to arrive back in Johannesburg at 22:30 local time with the connecting passengers landing in Cape Town at 23:00.
“Scheduled air services are what is needed to build a sustainable tourism industry on St Helena,” said the island’s director of tourism, Christopher Pickard.
“As much as we are going to miss the RMS St Helena, not everyone has two weeks to travel to and from the Island by ship. The Airlink service connects the major hubs of Cape Town and Johannesburg to St Helena in hours, rather than days, and we now hope that many of the people who visit South Africa, as well as South Africans, will consider adding St Helena as a destination to their trip. It is an experience they won’t forget or regret.”
Dr Niall O’Keeffe, chief executive for Economic Development, Enterprise St Helena said: “As a remote small island developing state, the onset of air services is crucial to enable the development of a sustainable economy in the long-term. The opportunities for tourism and investment as the Island opens up as the newest air destination in the world, cannot be overstated. That said, we want to ensure any development is protective of the wonderful culture and environment of St Helena. These are very exciting times.”
On the second Saturday of each month the flight will continue on from St Helena as a chartered service to Ascension Island. The plane will stay overnight on Ascension returning to St Helena on Sunday to offer a matching flight schedule as Saturday, for passengers returning to South Africa or connecting with flights to the rest of the world.
Airlink is currently finalising regulatory approval with the South African Civil Aviation Authority, and following the necessary approvals and proving flight, St Helena Government will be able to announce the commencement date of services as well as fares and the confirmed flight schedule. As demand and interest in St Helena grows, Airlink and St Helena Government hope to add other weekly flights to the schedule.
St Helena Airport has been operational since May 2016, but Airlink will offer the first scheduled air service to the remote island. Prior to this the Airport has catered primarily to charter and medevac flights and the Island only reachable by tourists after a five night voyage up from Cape Town on the iconic RMS St Helena, the last working Royal Mail Ship.