PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Despite suffering a series of blows at the hands of the national aviation authority, which saw their flights grounded for months on end, CemAir is taking to the sky once more, while also sorting out those customers who had already paid for flights before the grounding.
The operator announced over the course of the last two weeks that it would once again be offering flights between Plettenberg Bay and other major city centres from as early as 28 November, after receiving its renewed aircraft operating certificates (AOC) from the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
This comes after the regulator announced on 11 January that it had suspended the airline's AOCs following concerns over maintenance controls.
The initial grounding of CemAir's flights left thousands passengers stranded and the subsequent refund process has since left a bad taste in many passenger's mouths.
CemAir management however apologised to their customers for the inconvenience caused throughout "this ordeal". "We realise that many thousands of travellers were stranded and hundreds of jobs lost directly and indirectly as a result of the SACAA's illegal actions. We continue to process refunds and can now [at a customer's election] offer a credit towards future travel," it said in a statement.
A year ago, just before the previous festive season, the regulator announced that CemAir was no longer able to operate as an airline or air operator or fly any of its 21 aircraft. One of the reasons was that audit findings showed the airline had been operating some aircraft outside of permissible loading limits, including weight and balance.
This decision was challenged by CemAir through an urgent court application, however, which was successful and the airline was allowed to continue operations.
The January suspension was also challenged but the Johannesburg High
Court dismissed the matter with costs on 24 January.
Following this, CemAir took the matter to the civil aviation appeals committee, which found in their favour on 29 April.
The SACAA then responded saying that despite the ruling, CemAir was still not allowed to operate pending the renewal audit process being finalised and the operator being issued with the relevant operating certificates or approvals.
This was finalised in October and the airline operator was given the green light to continue taking to the air.
"Despite the uncontested judgment, CemAir was unable to resume operations due to the natural annual expiry of the aircraft operating certificates on 28 January. The processing of the renewal by the SACAA was finalised on 16 October," CemAir said.
"CemAir is the only truly independent scheduled airline operating regional aircraft and provides services to smaller towns and regional centres. The airline is privately owned and receives no subsidy or funding from the state but rather contributes considerably to tax revenue.
"In February 2019 we employed more than 310 staff and was the only airline connecting Margate and Plettenberg Bay to major centres. We voluntarily participated in the IOSA programme, the global gold-standard benchmark for airlines devised by the International Air Transport Association, and we have enjoyed an impeccable safety record across all operations."