St Helena Looks To Move Its Only Flight From Johannesburg To Cape Town For Summer
BY LUKE BODELL
The change is still facing a multitude of regulatory obstacles.
St Helena is looking to shift its sole scheduled service from Johannesburg to Cape Town during the summer months following a successful period of CPT flights before the pandemic. The country’s government has held productive discussions with South African carrier Airlink regarding the change, which won’t happen until at least 2024.
Cape Town-St Helena summer flights
The island of St Helena is exploring the possibility of welcoming flights from Cape Town on a more regular basis. St Helena Airport (HLE) is currently served by just a single scheduled service from Johannesburg, operated by South African carrier Airlink. An Enterprise St Helena (ESH) study conducted in April 2020 recommended moving flights to/from Cape Town during the island’s summer season, which begins in November.
According to the St Helena Government (SHG),
“Recognising the merits of both destinations, discussions have focused on using Cape Town as a hub during the summer months of November to April with Johannesburg, Airlink’s main operational base, being used from May to October.”
Air service to St Helena resumed in March following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, leading to one of the world’s most isolated islands becoming even more shut-off from the world. While St Helena and Cape Town have long been linked via sea, its airports only enjoyed a brief connection in 2019/2020 before the COVID pandemic halted service.
Minister for Treasury, Infrastructure and Sustainable Development Mark Brooks said,
“I’m very pleased that both parties have worked together to move this one step closer. There’s still some outstanding issues that need to be addressed, but assuming these go through without any hitches we can look forward to flights arriving and departing St Helena for Cape Town in the next few years.”
2023 start ruled out
While St Helena authorities clearly feel the airport’s Cape Town air connection in 2019/20 was a success, it has ruled out launching the new service next year. This is down to “a number of logistical and regulatory issues that have been identified,” along with the fact that Airlink publishes its international schedule 12 months in advance, leaving insufficient time to iron out issues.
As such, SHG has advised that a November 2024 start is much likelier, giving authorities and Airlink sufficient time to address operational and regulatory obstacles, including receiving the necessary approvals from the South African Civil Aviation Authority.
Five years of schedule service
Developed by the UK government in partnership with a South African construction firm, St Helena Airport is a fairly new airport having opened up in 2016 – initially dubbed “the world’s most useless airport,” HLE also has one of the world’s most difficult runways to land on. Before the airport’s opening, the only way to reach the island of St Helena was via boat, usually a five-day cruise from Cape Town.
The airport welcomed its first scheduled service in October 2017 – Johannesburg-St Helena via Windhoek – operated by current air service provider AirLink. Along with this fortnightly scheduled service onboard an Embraer E190, AirLink operates a monthly flight to neighbouring Ascension Island, located around 700 miles away.