19 January 2019

Malawi: South African Airways Suspends Blantyre Route Due to Concerns of Chileka Airport

South African Airways (SAA) has shut down its Blantyre operations in Malawi effective from Saturday, January 19 2019 after the Civil Aviation Authority found severe non-compliance at Chileka International Airport, that pose serious safety risks.

The airline opted to halt its operations after the Chilima airport's perimeter fence has been vandalised and falls short of international standards.

Recently, dogs invaded the Chileka International Airport runway and forced a Malawian Airlines aircraft to abort a take-off after the pilot sighted animals on the final lap.

Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said the fence was not part of the current rehabilitation works being carried out at the airport.

"The fence is supposed to be included in a different project under the European Investment Bank [EIB] funded project. Hopefully, by early 2019, it should roll out," he said.

Chileka International Airport has for the past years been undergoing a facelift whose works were supposed to be finalised by last October but the deadline was missed.

The inspector also found out that the airport's ambulance and fire engine are in disrepair, which means emergency support services would not be immediately available.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) said there is '"inadequacy of aviation infrastructure facilities and related emergency support services offered at Chileka International Airport, one of the two Malawian bases utilised by SAA."

SACAA spokesperson Pappie Maja said SAA operations at the airport would be halted until all issues raised by the authority were addressed and a follow-up inspection done.

"We welcome SAA's decision to halt its operations at the said airport. The airline accepted our findings and agreed that it was in the interest of safety to stop operations there," Maja explained.

SAA advised that customers could choose to be re-routed between Johannesburg and Lilongwe (LLW) for the period January 19 to 21. Customers would be re-accommodated to these scheduled flights: SA170 - Johannesburg (JNB) - Lilongwe (LLW) and SA171 - Lilongwe (LLW) - Johannesburg (JNB).

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