A file photo of an airlink plane.
- An Airlink pilot tried three times to land at the King Phalo Airport on Monday evening – without success.
- The 37-seater twin-engine had to be diverted to Gqeberha, where passengers sat inside the plane for over an hour.
- One of the passengers aboard the flight was Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
An Airlink flight from Johannesburg to East London was forced to divert to the airport in Gqeberha after it failed three attempts to land at the King Phalo Airport, due to bad weather conditions.
Severe weather lashed East London late on Monday afternoon, causing low visibility.
The airport manager at King Phalo, Nicola Smith, said the flight was scheduled to land at 17:45, after it departed from OR Tambo International Airport at 16:15.
Stranded passengers, who were meant to depart on the same flight to Johannesburg at 18:15, had to wait for more than two hours as the flight had to ride out the storm in Gqeberha.
“The flight departed from OR Tambo International Airport at 16h15 to East London, but it could not land after three attempts and was diverted to Port Elizabeth [Gqeberha]. The passengers were kept inside the aircraft for approximately an hour on the ground. They did not disembark,” said Smith.
The flight then eventually left Gqeberha at 19:30 – and the pilot managed to land the aircraft on his fourth attempt at the King Phalo Airport, at 20:05.
The 4Z918 flight only left for OR Tambo International at 20:40, confirmed Smith.
Small Businesses Development Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was one of the passengers, who took to social media to post that she was starving.
The SA Weather Service’s Garth Sampson said light rain and low cloud may have prevented the pilot from seeing the runway.
Airlink confirmed the Embraer twin-engined jetliner, which seats up to 37 passengers, had to divert to Gqeberha.
The airliner said: “Airlink’s priority is the safety and well-being of its customers, crew and equipment. The diversion to Gqeberha was necessitated by bad weather in East London, which created conditions at the city’s airport that were below the acceptable and prescribed safety minima [plural of minimum].
“As soon as conditions in East London had improved, the aircraft took off from Gqeberha and flew to East London, where it landed about 3hrs and 15mins later than originally scheduled.”
Sampson said conditions over the East London region would be partly cloudy for most of the week.
The weather service says fine conditions are expected over most of the province on Wednesday.
On Thursday, showers and thundershowers are expected in places over interior, while windy conditions will persist over the interior.