SAA shuts down Blantyre operations due to concerns

19 January 2019 - 12:58 By BELINDA PHETO
A South African Airways Airbus A320. Picture: SAA
A South African Airways Airbus A320. Picture: SAA
Image: SAA

South African Airways (SAA) has shut down its Blantyre operations effective from Saturday, January 19 2019.

The airline opted to halt its operations following non-compliance findings made by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) after its inspection at the Malawian airport.

“The Level 1 finding raised against the national carrier primarily relates to the inadequacy of aviation infrastructure facilities and related emergency support services offered at Chileka International Airport, one of the two Malawian bases utilised by SAA,” SACAA said in a statement.

SACAA spokesperson Pappie Maja said the authority had found serious safety risks at the airport during an annual inspection. He added that SAA operations at the airport would be halted until all issues raised by the authority were addressed and a follow-up inspection done.

“We welcome SAA’s decision to halt its operations at the said airport. The airline accepted our findings and agreed that it was in the interest of safety to stop operations there,” Maja explained.

He said the SACAA inspection had exposed several issues of non-compliances, some of which were cause for serious concern. Among other things, Maja said, the airport’s perimeter fence was vandalised and fell short of set international standards. He said the authority had also found that the fire engine and ambulance at the airport were not dependable due to a lack of maintenance.

“This state of affairs may have catastrophic consequences for the airline’s passengers and crew in an event that one of their aircraft or surrounding facilities caught fire because as things stand, that would mean that emergency support services would not be instantly available as prescribed by civil aviation regulations worldwide,” read SACAA’s statement.