Travellers, who use the Polokwane International Airport in Limpopo, have expressed excitement after it was declared safe to resume operations. The airport resumed operations after five months.

The Civil Aviation Authority downgraded the airport safety features from category seven to two earlier this year. The airport officially welcomed its first flight this morning that departed from the O.R. Tambo International Airport.

The first flight made a swift landing after months of inactivity at the runway of the Polokwane International Airport. The first flight took off with 60 % of passengers, some having travelled from as far as the United Kingdom.

Passengers were happy to land safely.

“When I booked my flight from London, I did not even realise that the airport had not been open for the past five months, so I am grateful that I just made my journey that I am here without any trouble. I didn’t know it was opening today, because I travelled all the way from Manchester, United Kingdom, I was wondering what was the excitement with all the banners, so it is good that the airport is open again.”

The downgrading of the airport negatively impacted businesses in the shuttle industry. Operators have welcomed its re-opening. Jackson Maropeng says his taxi business will benefit from the airport.

“It is going to benefit me a lot, we have been down, our businesses closed even with this COVID-19, but today I am very excited. I even got my first customer today, my driver has just left, I even got my customer that I just dropped off just now.”

The Gateway Airports Authority Limited (Gaal), an entity under the Department of Transport, lost its commercial air service license following the downgrade due to non-adherence to safety. In the 2018 and 2019 financial years, Gaal was described as the worst-performing entity in Limpopo by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. R14 million was unaccounted for that year.

The entity also faced several challenges with some board members facing corruption charges, including former executive, Ben Mehale. Transport MEC, Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya, appointed a new board in April.

She says the new board has taken responsibility to ensure history does not repeat itself.

“We have only looked at people with aviation knowledge, the chairperson has got more than 20 years experience in the aviation industry. So we have someone with a legal background, we have somebody with financial knowledge, so most of the members are from the legal industry.”

Flights will operate twice daily by carrier SA-Airlink.