By Phephile Motau
Eswatini Air appears ready to tackle every challenge that will come it’s way following the smooth landing of its maiden flight on Sunday.
The Royal Eswatini Airways Corporation’s (RENAC) airline completed its first trip from King Mswati III International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday morning to much a celebration which included a water salute at the South African airport after months of planning.
The maiden flight was through the 50-seater Embraer ERJ-145 and was boarded by a delegation from Eswatini who included Cabinet ministers and, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Eswatini Thoko Sipamla, Members of Parliament, tourism industry officials and members of the media.
Cabinet Ministers included the Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe, the Minister of Tourism, Moses Vilakati, the Minister of Home Affairs, Princess Lindiwe, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thulisile Dladla.
The first official passengers were South African entertainers DJ Zinhle and DJ Oskido who were in the country for a show. They said despite that they were not aware that they would be boarding the maiden flight, they were both excited to be part of history.
Speaking during a reception hosted by Tourism South Africa, Chief Executive of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa Aaron Munetsi endorsed the airline as being ready to face everything that may come it’s way. He said a boxer had a strategy before going into the boxing ring, but after the first jab, the strategy might have to be forgotten as more jabs emerge.
Munetsi said this should be the same for the company and he asked Minister Ndwandwe and RENAC’s Chief Executive Officer President Dhlamini if they were ready for the jabs which will come after the successful first trip.
“From what I have seen now you are ready,” he said.
After the reception, the Eswatini delegation was treated to lunch and drinks at the Shongololo Lounge, before making their way back to Eswatini. The flight, according to passengers was smooth and everyone was singing praises to the pilot, Robert Dlamini who they said handled everything well, particularly take-off and landing at both airports. When the flight got to OR Tambo, it was met with well-wishers from the airport who all seemed excited at Eswatini’s new airline, and it was welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm.
Speaking during the reception, Minister Ndwandwe thanked Tourism South Africa for their very kind gesture of hosting this reception of Eswatini Air at OR Tambo International Airport.
“Our two countries are intertwined in so many aspects and the tourism sector is perhaps one of the areas which when jointly developed could see both our economies moving in the right direction of growth. Thank you for extending the friendly hand, we are receiving it with a firm warm handshake,” he said.
He further thanked Airports Company South Africa for accepting Eswatini Air to their facilities to do business.
“I believe that the business relationship that has started will grow and translate into similar facilities as the ones we see here at OR Tambo also set up in Eswatini Airports,” Ndwandwe said.
He further shared the storyline of airline trajectory in Eswatini beginning from the first airline which was established in Eswatini.
The minister said King Sobhuza II established the Royal Swazi Airways in 1978 which facilitated easy passage of South African exiles into various African destinations including Zambia, Tanzania, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Kenya until 1994 when such movements were no longer necessary since South Africa had got independence.
“That airline The Royal Swazi Airways then collapsed and the country entered into an agreement with a private airline to transit passengers now for business and tourism between Eswatini and Johannesburg,” he said.
He said over the period, Eswatini had been working and strategising on how to set up her national airline.
“We are all excited that, that time has come and today we are launching the first flight of the rebirth of the Kingdom of Eswatini national flag carrier airline- Eswatini Air,” he said.
Ndwandwe said this was a commercial airline and they were taking advice to make it succeed. He said it will have three destinations in South Africa which shall be Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
“We are inviting South Africans and all citizens of the world who would want to travel to these destinations to think of Eswatini Air, more especially those who would want to experience the wildlife and nature of Eswatini before proceeding to these destinations,” the minister said.
He added that they were also promising swift transit through the King Mswati III International Airport for passengers connecting through these destinations.
“The Kingdom of Eswatini is open to win-win partnerships with the airports’ company as well as other airlines to grow Eswatini Air network into the rest of Africa and the world,” Ndwandwe said.
Menzies appointed Eswatini Air’s representative at OR Tambo
Menzies Aviation has been assigned as the Royal Eswatini National Airways Corporation (RENAC)’s representative at OR Tambo International Airport.
This was revealed by RENAC Chief Executive Officer President Dhlamini. He said they would be actively involved in all ground operations performed by Menzies on their behalf. According to their website, Menzies started operating in Edinburgh way back in 1833 and boasts over 500 clients.
According to the website, they provide front-line airport services, both above and below the wing, ensuring passengers, crew, and aircraft complete journeys efficiently and on schedule. They offer fuel services and are the world’s largest independent provider of into-plane fueling services and fuel farm management for oil companies, airports, airlines, and other partners across the world.
The company also offers air cargo services where they manage the global transportation of high-value and time-critical cargo.
Dhlamini expressed gratitude for the warm reception as well as the cooperation and flexibility “we experienced when they applied for slots at the airport.”
“We look forward to a fruitful and memorable experience as we operate in this world-class airport,” he said.
He also said they undertook to maintain the highest standards of safety and professionalism as they operate at OR Tambo Airport. Meanwhile, many speakers praised the airline for its success and further applauded His Majesty King Mswati III for being a visionary as he had envisioned Eswatini becoming a First World country.
The excitement was the order of the day during the inaugural flight and at some point, the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Moses Vilakati, burst into song and sang ‘Kutsi mangigiye’. He was joined by other equally excited people who were at the reception as they danced.
Eswatini High Commissioner to South Africa Lindiwe Kunene congratulated RENAC and the entire team of Eswatini Air for what she termed an extraordinary accomplishment in reviving air transport.
She said the launch came at an opportune time for Eswatini as they had observed a shift from emaSwati in terms of movement outside Eswatini. “Many of our citizens are now open to travel for trade and leisure. This has further increased traffic on roads hence leading them to change the mode of transport,” she said.
Kunene said aviation and tourism were intrinsically linked; both industries need each other to survive. She said Eswatini over the years strived to balance the benefits of tourism and air transport by enabling regulatory environments, coherent policies, quality infrastructure, and comprehensive strategies to fully leverage the benefits offered by the technological advances.
“It is for this reason that we gathered here today to witness the launching of our very own beautiful aircraft. This latest connection by Eswatini Air between Eswatini, the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe will provide new ways for our people to engage, for our businesses to connect, and for our economies to thrive.