As from the second half of this year, Skukuza Airport will again handle scheduled flights from registered airlines.
The airport was closed to commercial airlines, but remained open for charters, just on ten years ago when Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) outside Hazyview opened its doors for business.
SANParks head of business development Giju Varghese said the reintroduction of scheduled flights would be a “key contributor” in bringing more visitors to the world-renowned game reserve.
The reintroduction of commercial flights would not affect chartered aircraft using the airport’s 1 550 m runway, which is 311 m above sea level.
“Scheduled commercial flights were diverted to KMIA but charter flights in and out of Skukuza never stopped,” he said. The move of scheduled flights to Mpumalanga’s new flagship airport ended registered commercial airline traffic bound for Kruger, its concession lodges and adjacent private game reserves via the airport in the park.
Skukuza is situated about 15 minutes’ drive from the park’s major restcamp of the same name and is also used by South African Air Force as part of the South African National Defence Force’s contribution to the national rhino anti-poaching effort. BK-117 helicopters from 15 Squadron’s C Flight as well as 28 Squadron C-130BZ transport aircraft are the most regular military users of the airport.
Current management plans for Skukuza Airport are for it to handle a maximum of six scheduled flights a day up to a maximum of 30 a week.
“Including charters a maximum of 10 arriving and departing flights a day will be allowed on a seven day a week basis,” he said.
SANParks will not, as in the past, operate the airport but will appoint a suitably qualified operator for scheduled services.
In terms of which local carriers are expected to take up the re-opening of Skukuza as an addition to their routes Varghese said: “We will partner with any airline and after due process will partner with the most appropriate airline to make the airport sustainable”.