Wednesday, January 25, 2017

‘Cost will be too high for tourists’: Fly-in safari industry fears fallout from new aviation regulations

The luxury safari and tourism industries are bracing for a potential loss of business – with one operator mulling a move out of the country to keep up profitability and another estimating as many as seven out ten operators could close down.

Their concern hinges around the Civil Aviation Authority’s plan for all South African airstrips to be licensed and firefighter compliant. Currently smaller aircraft are self-regulating in their operations at unlicensed airstrips.

“If the amendment is passed‚ we will then move our business outside of South Africa and continue working in other countries such as Kenya‚ Tanzania‚ Lesotho‚ Mozambique and others‚” said Stephan van der Merwe‚ co-owner of Fly-in Safari Co.

“Some of our safaris can cost anything between R200‚000 and R300‚000 per person. And we won’t pay ridiculous additional fees for strips and the rest and add costs to this already expensive price for the consumer‚” he said.

Eugene Mostert‚ from Federal Airlines‚ which flies between 4‚500 and 5‚000 passengers a month to lodge destinations‚ was quoted by the website‚ as estimating that a year after implementation‚ three-quarters of companies flying to airstrips would go out of business.

Van der Merwe told TMG Digital that he does not understand the rationale behind the proposed amendment of the regulations and cannot imagine how it will have any positive effect on the tourism industry.

Kieron Moore‚ Operations Manager for Elite Jet‚ said that while their company won’t be affected‚ the passing of the legislation will see the limiting of movement of aircraft around certain areas.

“A lot of aircraft will be grounded if [the legislation] is passed because certain aircraft‚ for example a King Air 200‚ which can currently land in Thohoyandou‚ will no longer be able to land there if they don’t register and licence the airstrips.”

“It will cost the owners of the aircraft a helluva lot of money if their planes are forced to be grounded as a result of not being able to land in certain areas.”

The SA Civil Aviation Authority says‚ however‚ that charter airlines are commercial operations and as such come with a responsibility to the SACAA as a regulator that needs to “uphold unquestionable levels of aviation safety and security standards”.

“The notion that a civil air operation should be allowed to operate at an unlicensed aerodrome at a game lodge just because it is deemed to be expensive to comply is fraught with legal and reputational risk not only to the operator but to all concerned‚ and cannot be justified.

“The proposed regulations and amendments will also help ensure that more of the smaller charter operators comply with applicable civil aviation standards‚” the CAA said.

The proposed amendment‚ according to the CAA‚ is still at a consultation phase with the next step involving discussions by the Civil Aviation Regulations Committee (commonly known as CARCom). After this process‚ the regulations will then be sent to the Department of Transport for scrutiny and final review before possibly being signed into law. 

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