South African Airways (SAA) has opted to cancel its operations into and from Blantyre, Malawi, effective 19 January 2019.
The self-imposed sanction was the airline’s reaction to a Level 1 finding raised by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) following a base inspection of SAA operations in Malawi.
A Level 1 finding can be described as a severe non-compliance that poses serious safety risk and requires the licence-holder to adequately address the findings and failure of which necessitates immediate enforcement action by the regulator.
The Level 1 finding raised against the national carrier primarily relates to the inadequacy of aviation infrastructure facilities and related emergency support services offered at Chileka International Airport, one of the two Malawian bases utilised by SAA.
The SACAA inspection exposed several non-compliances some of which are cause for serious concern. Notably, the airport’s perimeter fence is vandalised and falls short of the set international standards. Due to lack of maintenance, both the ambulance and fire engine are not dependable.
This state of affairs may have catastrophic consequences for the airline’s passengers and crew in an event that one of their aircraft or surrounding facilities catches fire because as things stand, that would mean that emergency support services would not be instantly available as prescribed by civil aviation regulations world-wide.
The cancelation of SAA’s Blantyre operations will remain in place until such time that the findings raised by the SACAA have been adequately addressed and a follow up inspection regarding the findings has been conducted.