George Airport has not been listed as one of the airports permitted to open to receive business travellers and cargo under Alert Level 3.
Considering the significant role this airport plays in providing access to the Garden Route District for many business travellers across South Africa, this is bad for business at a time when we should be doing everything we can to open the economy safely and responsibly in the Western Cape.
The average number of passengers through the George Airport prior to the Covid-19 lockdown was around 55 000 passengers per month, of which approximately 40 per cent were business travellers.
Across the Garden Route District, there are many business professionals who commute weekly via air travel to their places of work. Many of these business professionals are engineers and tradesmen who need to visit worksites at important business nodes in the Garden Route District, such as the Port of Mossel Bay where Total’s offshore oil and gas project is located.
There are also various other aviation and logistics service providers which operate from George Airport and who currently cannot charter or provide air freight services to their clients across the country. Similarly, given the number of business travellers that the George area normally receives, the continued closure of the George Airport will mean that numerous accommodation businesses will not be able to benefit from being allowed to open under Alert Level 3.
Businesses in George and the Greater Knysna region are heavily dependent on business travellers having access via the George Airport. To not allow the airport to open during Alert Level 3 will mean continued hardship with likely job losses and business closures as a result. We believe these negative impacts can be prevented if the George Airport is allowed to open swiftly.
And so, I have written to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to request an urgent re-consideration of this decision.
We will continue to work hard to support business, and back business so that we can save jobs and save the economy in the Western Cape.