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Air Services Licensing

We all recognize the survivors – Kulula and Mango, most prominently, and also SA Airlink, Safair and SA Express.

But who remembers Flitestar (1991–1994)? Or Phoenix Airways (1994–1998), Sun Air (1994–1998), 1Time (2004–2012) and Velvet Sky (2011–2012)? These are all domestic air services which were, generally speaking, not able to weather the difficult terrain of airline operation.1

The grant (and withdrawal) of licences to operate an air service – that is, any service operated by means of an aircraft, for reward – is the domain of The Air Service Licensing Council, who was established in terms of the Air Services Licencing Act 1990,2 and whose function is to control domestic air services.

A. Licences

  1. Licences must be applied for, in respect of the particular class of air service which is to be operated.
    • It is an offence to operate, or attempt to operate an air service without a licence.3
    • It is an offence to operate an air service otherwise than according to the conditions of the licence.4
  2. The Council considers the application, together with all information, representations, objections and evidence in relation thereto. To obtain information, the Council can order any person supporting or opposing the application to appear before it; and, it can also subpoena any person, together with any documents, books, or items which may have a bearing on the proceedings.5

    Any person who fails to comply with any such order commits an offence.6

    It is also an offence:

    • to refuse to take the oath or make an affirmation in respect of evidence to be given;7
    • to furnish false information or particulars;8
    • to refuse to produce any document, book or thing mentioned in the summons; or9
    • to refuse to answer questions.10
  3. If the air service is for purposes of social welfare, charity, or humanitarian reasons the Council can exempt the licensee from certain conditions. It is an offence to use the aircraft in contravention of the conditions of the exemption.11

  4. The licence must be kept in a safe place, and produced for inspection by any authorized person or inspector. It is an offence to contravene this obligation.12

  5. It is a crime to forge, alter, add to or damage any licence or other document issued in terms of the Act.13

  6. If you:
    • use a licence (or other document issued under the Act) of which you are not the holder; or14
    • allow someone else to use your licence (or a document issued to you),15

    you commit an offence.

B. Duties of Licensee

  1. One of the conditions of a licence is that the air service in question must be in operation, within the period determined by the Council – in any event not later than 12 months after the grant of the licence. If the licensee does not do so, it must return the licence to the Council. It is an offence not to do so.16

  2. Once commenced, the air service must not be interrupted for a period exceeding 12 months. If it is, the licence must be returned to the Council; and it is an offence to fail to do so.17

  3. If the licence is cancelled by the Council, for whatever reason, it must be returned. It is a crime not to do so.18

  4. The licensee is obliged to furnish the Council with certain statistical information, and commits a crime if it fails to do so.19

  5. If there is any change (of a prescribed nature) in the operation of an air service, the licensee must notify the Council in writing at least 14 days before the change takes place. It is an offence not to do so.20

  1. See the 2013 paper by Rose Luke and Jackie Walters: “Overview of the developments in the domestic airline industry in South Africa since market deregulation” published on the website of the Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management – www.jtscm.co.za

  2. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by act 13 of 2009. The act is administered by the Minister of Transport. The council has its offices at Forum Building, corner Struben and Bosman streets, Pretoria. 

  3. Section 12(1) read with section 26(1)(b). 

  4. Section 12(1) read with section 26(1)(b). 

  5. Section 11(1) read with section 26(1)(a). 

  6. Section 11(1) read with section 26(1)(a). 

  7. Section 26(1)(a) read with section 11(3). 

  8. Section 26(1)(g) read with section 11(3) or section 16(3)(d). 

  9. Section 26(1)(a) read with section 11(1) or (3). 

  10. Section 26(1)(a) read with section 11(3) or section 16(3)(d). 

  11. Section 26(1)(h) read with section 12(2). 

  12. Section 24(1)(c) read with section 26(1)(d). 

  13. Section 26(1)(e). 

  14. Section 26(1)(f). 

  15. Section 26(1)(fa). 

  16. Section 21 read with section 19(c) read with section 26(1)(c). 

  17. Section 21 read with section 19(c) read with section 26(1)(c). 

  18. Section 21 read with section 26(1)(c). 

  19. Section 24(1)(b) read with section 26(1)(d). 

  20. Section 26(1)(d) read with section 24(1)(d).