South African Airways (SAA) is positioned to provide a special service for some of the people who will be travelling to the Eastern Cape for the funeral of Nelson Mandela which will take place in his birth place, the village of Qunu, on the 15th of December 2013.
This forms part of a move by the South African government pulling out all the stops to attend to Mandela’s funeral which promises to be a logistical nightmare. Multitudes of international dignitaries from around the world, including US President Barak Obama, are expected to descend into South Africa.
Many will have to enter via the country’s main entry points Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, and then make their way to Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
There are two main airports in the Eastern Cape, the East London and Port Elizabeth airports. A drive between East London Airport and Qunu is estimated to be 150km long and can take more than two hours. The Port Elizabeth Airport is further at more than 400km.
As such the provinces two smaller and non-commercial airports may be relied upon for the Mandela funeral. These are the Bisho Airport and Mthatha Airport both of which were upgraded in the recent past. The Mthatha Airport, which recently unveiled a R480m runway upgrade, is more critical as it is located 30 minutes away from the Qunu village.
For its part the South African Airways said it will provide air transport service to ferry mourners who will attend the Mandela funeral.
“After consultation with South African government, SAA has put a special air transport service in place in order to facilitate the movement of mourners to the Eastern Cape who will attend the funeral of former president Mandela,” said SAA.
This special air transport service will cater for the mourners who have been invited to attend the funeral and it will also be available on the return leg of their travel.
The airline would like to indicate that this announcement neither replaces nor will it disrupt its existing daily operations to the Eastern Cape. SAA currently serves the Eastern Cape Province daily to two destinations (East London and Port Elizabeth).”
Passengers traveling on normal schedules between Johannesburg and the two Eastern Cape destinations SAA operates to, will continue to be offered the same services.”
Should there be any changes, an update or announcement will be made in due course.”
Following the passing on of Mandela the South African government has announced a packed 10 days programme of mourning leading to the funeral in Qunu. These include a special joint seating of parliament on Monday, the 9th of December 2013 and display of Mandela’s remains at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.