The new Newcastle Airport terminal building opened its doors on Wednesday, reports Newcastle Advertiser.
Complete with the usual pomp and ceremony, formalities got underway after mayor of Newcastle Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba touched down in a jet straight from OR Tambo International Airport.
He says this journey took around 40 minutes.
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Once the plane landed, Mahlaba and high-ranking government officials received a parade of honour from municipal traffic officials, before a press conference was called. During this conference, he fielded questions from the media.
While it may only be six to eight weeks before residents can take advantage of flights to and from Durban and Johannesburg, Mahlaba believes the reopening of the airport is one step closer to “Vision 2035”, which aims to establish Newcastle as a metropolitan by this year.
He also says the airport will create sustainable employment.
Possibly pre-empting questions about filling of vacancies, Mahlaba stated no person had been employed at Newcastle Airport yet, and said the process would be proper and open to all.
“We will prioritise locals, meaning those from Amajuba District. This can expand to include all of KwaZulu-Natal, but hiring must begin here.”
Speaking on his flight from Johannesburg, Mahlaba said this was the first flight directly to Newcastle from OR Tambo, and called it a historic milestone.
He is intent on building upon this momentum in future.
Responding to questions from the media, the mayor confirmed that while commercial flights would take off to and from Newcastle Airport, private passengers could also make use of the service.
Calls for a service provider have already gone out.
“Don’t underestimate Newcastle, because we are a big town with big industries,” he added. “We will ensure it’s easy for anyone to use airline services over a road, because of the fuel costs.”