17 October 2023
Saturday, 14 October 2023, marked six years since the commencement of flights to St Helena and just over a year since resumption of regular services following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiation of regular air services has transformed travel to and from the Island. Travel time between St Helena and South Africa, and St Helena and Ascension, has reduced by over 96%.
St Helena air services enable Saints, friends and family, tourists and business travellers to connect quickly to international hubs around the world. This fast mode of travel has had a huge impact on the lives of many living and working on St Helena, especially through medical evacuations. Given St Helena’s remoteness, air access was also critical to the transportation of essential medical supplies and equipment to the Island during the COVID-19 pandemic and our transition to post-pandemic normality. Air connectivity also continues to support the development of the Island’s economy, from facilitating faster trips by investors and experts, to growing the tourism sector.
Since 2017 St Helena has been served by a regular air service operated by Airlink. Due to the Island’s remoteness and conditions at the airport, air services require specific technical and operational capabilities, in addition to having appropriate aircraft and air crews. This has been demonstrated again recently, whereby the airport faced the windiest September on record since its opening, requiring a flexible approach to scheduling.
St Helena has worked closely with Airlink to support the development of their service over the last six years. Given these requirements there are only a limited number of operators capable of providing the kind of service the Island needs, and we are proud to be partnering with one of the leading carriers in the region to deliver this.
Regular dialogue with the Airlink management team allows for periodic enhancements to the services, including expansion of weekly frequencies during peak travel periods. This has been facilitated by the support of the UK Government via the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), for which SHG is equally grateful.
Work continues to grow the route and we will see the reintroduction of twice weekly flights between Johannesburg and St Helena operating between November 2023 and February 2024. Discussions remain ongoing between SHG, Airlink and regulatory authorities in South Africa to put appropriate measures in place to allow the resumption of additional flights to and from Cape Town for the following peak season.
Air services have been facilitated by the opening of St Helena Airport in 2017. The commencement of flights was the conclusion of a six year project, which itself followed decades of discussions and consideration as to how build and commission an airport in one of the most remote and challenging territories in the world.
St Helena Airport is a highly regulated organisation, ensuring it maintains the highest industry standards. As well as being subject to regular monitoring and evaluation, in August it was subject to an audit conducted by the airport’s regulator, Air Safety Support International (ASSI). It achieved exemplary results, demonstrating that it achieved and complies with all necessary international standards.
Minister for Economic Development, Mark Brooks, said:
“It is hard to overstate the impact that the airport and regular air services have had on our Island. From the countless saved lives to the ability for loved ones to travel to and from St Helena quickly and with ease, many of whom might not previously otherwise have been able to make the journey. It’s also facilitating the increased growth of our tourism sector, what is now the third largest contributor to the economy after the two types of financial aid we receive from the UK Government.”
“Operating air services to St Helena is not as straightforward as is the case for many destinations elsewhere around the world. The fact we are able to do so is a testament to the hard work and determination of our partners Airlink, our staff and the ongoing technical and financial support we receive from the UK Government. We’re grateful to everyone involved and I’m excited to see the continued transformation for our Island that comes from our connectivity to the rest of the world.”
17 October 2023
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