The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) says once Mthatha Airport has rectified issues of concern, its status can be reassessed.

The aviation regulatory body downgraded  the airport from a category 4 to a category 3 level airport, citing concerns over the facility’s rescue and fire-fighting service responses.

Spokesperson of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Phindiwe Gwebu explains that the quality of flights is a challenge.

“We do have a challenge with regard to their compliance with emergency management system as well as their fire and rescue system. I think further clarity I can give on the matter is that we also concerned with regards to their fire fighter training that is supposed to be operating the machines at the airport. They are not all properly qualified as required by the law. So it’s just that and quite a few other findings that we uncovered.”

The downgrade has forced the two airlines, SA Airlink and SA Express which operate the Mthatha- Johannesburg route to temporarily suspend operations. Some of the flights had to be cancelled.

The downgrade means that small aircrafts will operate this route carrying less than 40 passengers. The head of transport in the province, Irene Mpolweni says some of these issues have been resolved.

The provincial transport department says it has issued more tenders to upgrade the Mthatha airport . The department says their goal is to make this airport a level six or seven when upgrades are finished. By Lwandile Mbulali