From September 30 Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) will withdraw its management services from Pilanesberg International Airport. The withdrawal follows a decision by the North West Provincial Government (NWPG) to move the international airport licence from Pilanesberg to Mafikeng.

NWPG, refutes the claims that it withdrew the airport licence from Pilanesberg and said in a statement: “In March 2011, Acsa, the current operator at Pilanesberg Airport, informed us of their intention to withdraw from the facility from April 1, 2011, citing the fact they were operating the airport at a loss.” Acsa were requested to stay for a minimum period of six months to ensure a smooth handover.

Since March there has been an ongoing legal dispute between NWPG & Acsa. The outcome, according to NWPG, was that Acsa was to give 12 months’ notice in writing. Acsa reportedly refused to accept the outcome and further requested the department to pay them R500 000 per month for their stay at Pilanesberg Airport. NWPG says: “Acsa wanted the department to enter into a contract with them for six months with a financial implication of more than half a million. This was not possible, as their current contract is still valid. Acsa then applied to the South African Civil Aviation Authority, to suspend the operating licence of Pilanesberg Airport at the end of July 2011. This would mean the airport would be closed for operations as it would have no operating licence.”

Many within the tourism industry in the North West do not believe the withdrawal of Acsa will have a detrimental effect on tourism in the region. Joel Papenfus, GM Bakubung Lodge in the Pilanesberg, says: “The last time there was any viable traffic through the airport was when Sun Air was running scheduled flights before they went bust, and that was many years ago.”