A new airline to open up the skies for taxi commuters was launched at Lanseria airport, north of Johannesburg, on Friday.
Santaco airlines, the brainchild of the SA National Taxi Council, would offer an all-in-one transport system between taxi ranks in different provinces.
The first phase of the service would operate between Lanseria airport, north of Johannesburg, Bhisho in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town.
“This is a historic day for the taxi industry… We are not rewriting history, we are part of the history of South Africa,” Santaco secretary general Philip Taaibosch said at the “proof-of-concept” launch in Lanseria on Friday.
“We are taking the black community… which has been suffering for many years… to the promised land.”
Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi said the launch of a low-cost airline for cash-strapped commuters, specifically black commuters, was a “dream come true”.
“The taxi industry has come of age. In the seventies, it was small, unco-ordinated, narrow. Over the last 30 to 40 years, the industry has become a major player.”
Taxi council president Jabulani Mthembu said aviation was a tough industry to break into, but Santaco would “travel where everyone else is scared to travel”.
He said the low-cost airline was bringing dignity to people whose only experience of aviation had been seeing a plane fly above their rooftops.
The main consumers would be people without a car and large income. The airline may also cater to people wishing to travel with their pets.
“We will have finalisation of all the details in a month’s time to deal with all the blockages.”
The logistics to be worked out would include access to the service for people without credit cards or internet access.
“We are bringing the taxi operation on-air,” Mthembu said.
The airline was expected to launch commercially at the end of the year.