South African Airways (SAA) announced on Wednesday that, because of the closing of the main runway of Malawi’s Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, also with effect from Wednesday (April 24), and until July 24 this year, the national flag carrier would not be able to operate services to Blantyre until the main runway was reopened. However, SAA also announced contingency plans to allow people to continue to fly between Johannesburg and Blantyre.
While its main runway has been closed, Chileka’s secondary runway remains open. However, even the smallest of SAA’s planes is too big to use the secondary runway. Instead, SA Express, which operates smaller aircraft, will take over SAA’s services to Blantyre.
“We have implemented contingency plans by using SA Express’ Q400 turboprop aircraft to continue with SAA’s schedule[d] operations with the exception of the 24th and 27th April 2019, whereon no scheduled operation will be available to/from Blantyre,” stated SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali. “We apologise to our valued customers for the inconvenience caused by these cancellations.”
Chileka’s main runway has been closed for maintenance and rehabilitation. Normally, SAA flies between Johannesburg and Blantyre three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“The nature of the aircraft deployed during the rehabilitation of the runway will be a single cabin aircraft,” he explained. “In the light of this change, SAA has decided to compensate all passengers who had purchased tickets to travel in the premium cabin. The decision was based on the nature of the offering in the single cabin aircraft and in accordance with our compensation policy.”
Individuals and groups with tickets will be, “where applicable” re-booked, or have their reservations changed to the “closest available flight” in the same class, and change fees will be waived. All passengers who have not been ticketed will be re-booked on to the next available flight. Passengers can also be transferred to the Johannesburg-Lilongwe (Malawi) service, which uses the Lilongwe International Airport.