The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has closed Chileka International Airport in Blantyre to allow for maintenance of the runway, including filling of potholes.
The development yesterday inconvenienced scores of passengers who were taken unawares as they missed their flights.
At Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe yesterday afternoon, one passenger called The Nation complaining that about 50-plus Blantyre-bound passengers were literally stranded as the Eithiopian Airlines crew told them they would not proceed to Blantyre.
Said the passenger: “This is embarrassing! We are stranded here [at KIA]. Even the pilot has just learnt upon landing that Chileka Airport has been closed. You don’t close an airport like a house. There are people from all over the world stranded here. It’s embarrassing us as Malawians.”
Later, the airline announced that a bus would ferry the passengers from KIA to Blantyre at about 5pm.
Earlier, one passenger, apparently aboard a Malawian Airlines flight from KIA to Johannesburg which normally stops over at Chileka, yesterday wrote on his Facebook page quoting the captain as having announced: “Although the weather is bad in Blantyre [fog], we could have gone [there], but we have to wait until they fix the potholes on the runway.”
And another person who went to see off a relation at Chileka also wrote on his Facebook wall: “I went to see my cousin off to RSA [Republic of South Africa] atChileka Airport. Checking in for all those travelling was done, but later to be told their flight won’t be there as the airport has a lot of potholes…. So he has to travel to LL… Childish!”
International flights serviced by Malawian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways fly in and out of Chileka Airport.
Yesterday, Malawian Airlines announced the suspension of its flights to Chileka Airport for two weeks effective March 16 2014.
Malawian Airlines Limited public relations officer MaganizoMazeze confirmed the suspension in an interview, saying it followed a statement from the DCA informing the airline about the development.
He said the statement got to Malawian Airlines offices yesterday morning.
Said Mazeze: “We are concerned about the short notice and understand the inconvenience caused by this, but because this has been done for safety reasons and bearing in mind that in airline business, safety is the priority, this suspension is understandable. We are hoping that this [maintenance] is a long-lasting solution.”
Mazeze said Malawian Airlines flights will depart and terminate from KIA.