Transport minister: Skywise fate lies in its own hands

Dipuo Peters has referred Skywise back to Acsa, saying government won’t get involved in business decisions.

FILE: Transport minister Dipuo Peters. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Transport minister Dipuo Peters has told Skywise she won't be getting involved in the airline's dispute with the state owned Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

The budget carrier was grounded on Wednesday because of unpaid airport charges, leaving passengers stranded and worried that their festive season travel plans may be jeopardised.

The airline responded by writing an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, urging government to urgently intervene in the matter.

But Peters has referred Skywise back to Acsa, saying government is not going to get involved in business decisions.

"This is a company-to-company arrangement. Let Skywise go back to Acsa [and] engage with Acsa. Acsa has indicated that immediately [when] they have an agreement, Skywise will be back in the sky. Skywise's decision to be in the sky lies in their hands."

Skywise owes R4 million to Acsa which it promised to pay in instalments. It also owes R4 million to Air Traffic and Navigation Services.

When the budget carrier failed to make a payment on Tuesday, Acsa forced the airline to suspend all its flights.

The airline had hoped to resume operations by 10 December, but it remains unclear if and when it will be back in the air.

Meanwhile, Skywise passengers are not the only ones who have been left stranded ahead of the festive season.

Passengers booked with FlyAfrica.com have also been left in the lurch amid flight cancellations and uncertainty over whether ticket-holders will be able to fly over the holiday period.

Last month FlyAfrica Namibia was forced to suspend its operations not long after the airline's Zimbabwe operations came to a halt.

Johannesburg resident Simone Howell says she is desperate for information as she is due to fly to Windhoek on Christmas day, but calls go unanswered.

"I thought 'let me go to the airport, maybe someone will help me there'; to my surprise, the offices were closed. We have nobody to go to and that's the worst part because I am one of many clients, and we don't know where to go to. I have been saving this entire year to go on my holiday."