5 March 2013

Swaziland: Airlink Forced to Use King's Airport

The Swaziland Government is to force the airline Swazi Airlink to use Sikhuphe International Airport when it eventually opens

Barnabas Dlamini, the Prime Minister (PM) announced this last week.

Swazi Airlink will be the only airline using the airport. Despite many assurances from the airport's backers that international airlines were interested in using Sikhuphe, which is being built in the Swazi wilderness, none have agreed to use the airport.

Now, Dlamini, in a written reply to a question posed at a recent Editors Forum Breakfast, said, 'Swazi Airlink will have to use Sikhuphe as it will be our international airport.'

Airlink, which is operated in partnership with the Swazi government, in the past said it wanted to stay at Matsapha Airport, which is conveniently located close to the Swaziland capital Mbabane and the main commercial city of Manzini.

Dlamini also said the first flight from Sikhuphe would take place in August or September 2013.

Critics of Sikhuphe, who have dubbed the multi-million dollar airport project 'King Mswati's vanity project', have argued for years that there is no potential for the airport. Major airports already exist less than an hour's flying time away in South Africa with connecting routes to Swaziland and there is no reason to suspect passengers would want to use the airport at Sikhuphe as an alternative.

Completion of the airport has been delayed for years. King Mswati III had announced it would be open in time for the FIFA World Cup, played in neighbouring South Africa in 2010, but it did not happen.

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