It has been an exciting week for St Helena with the news that St Helena Government (SHG) has signed an agreement with SA Airlink (Airlink) to provide scheduled commercial air services to St Helena Island.
When will flights to St Helena commence?
Over the coming weeks, Airlink – a privately owned airline registered in South Africa and franchisee to South African Airways – will be finalising regulatory approvals with the South African Civil Aviation Authority. Following the necessary approvals and proving flight, SHG will be able to announce the commencement date, as well as fares and the confirmed flight schedule.
What route will the flights operate on, and what will the frequency be?
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 that has already undertaken a number of very successful test flights on the Island. The aircraft will accommodate 76 passengers.
Currently the aircraft is planned to depart Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport 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.
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.
As demand and interest in St Helena grows, Airlink and SHG hope to add more weekly flights to the schedule.
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 the Sunday.
The Avro RJ85 aircraft flown to St Helena by SA Airlink in May
What about connecting flights on to other international destinations?
OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg offers connectivity to over 80 airports around the world. Cape Town International Airport also offers flight connectivity to the UK and Europe.
HE Governor Lisa Phillips said:
“Undoubtedly, 2017 is the year of positive change for St Helena. Very soon a trip to South Africa, for St Helenians, will take a matter of hours rather than days. And we will be able to welcome tourists here in larger numbers and improve the economy of the Island and offer a better life for those who live here.”
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.”
Director of Tourism, Christopher Pickard added:
“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.”