We had a quick Q&A with SA Airlink’s CEO on the first year anniversary of the airline’s service to St. Helena.
AirInsight – What can you tell us about the traffic growth in the market? Up to expectations, better than that? Any data you provide will be most appreciated.
Foster – The Airlink service has operated for a little more than a year and it is therefore too early to assess year on year trends. However, the data that we have gleaned thus far depicts a clearly defined demand seasonality which will be of assistance when determining additional capacity. Demand in the first year of operation exceeded expectations. The St Helena air link is commercially sustainably viable.
The occasion of the first anniversary is worthy of celebration, especially so given that during the first year of operations there were 102 flights to and from St Helena, and 6,640 customers experienced the time efficiency of air access. Importantly the Airlink service enjoyed a 100% dispatch reliability over the period of the first twelve months, and we are delighted to have delivered safe and reliable air services and to have transformed access to and from St Helena – truly connecting St Helena with the world in real time. We experienced a few weather-related delays over the year, but these were always mitigated as best as possible.
AirInsight – Anything on increasing frequencies?
Foster – Frequencies have been added for the season from the end of November through March in the form of a second weekly flight. The take-up on some of the extra flights has been superb but we have seen underperformance on others. Naturally, we are tempering the capacity ramp up over time to ensure that the market is not over-capacitated.
AirInsight – Currently you fly from JNB – any chance of adding CPT? We hear CPT is the preferred starting point for British Airways passengers.
Foster – Cape Town remains topical and Airlink would dearly like to see the implementation of the connecting service at Windhoek, which had to be stopped because of aeropolitical considerations. However, it is important to note that as at now some 75% of travelers to and from the island originate their journey or connect at Johannesburg. We continue working on solutions that will in time provide better linkages between St Helena and Cape Town, and there are several permutations being pursued in this regard.
AirInsight – What can you tell us about the E-190 – working as expected? Better than expected?
Foster – The E190 aircraft is an exceptional aircraft. It is highly competent at St Helena and given the difficult operational environmental conditions, it is a perfect fit.