Safari lodge air shuttle provider Federal Air (7V, Durban Virginia) (FedAir) is taking over Airlink (South Africa)'s Lodge Link service from September 1, 2022, leaving the regional carrier free to focus on its primary business and growing its network within Southern Africa and further afield.

This follows a new commercial partnership between the two parties to link key Mpumalanga Lowveld Region airports, such as Skukuza and Mbombela, with game lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Northern KwaZulu Natal (KZN), they said in a joint statement.

FedAir will expand its air shuttle transfers to incorporate Airlink's current Lodge Link service, timed to connect with Airlink's scheduled arrivals and departures between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo, Cape Town International, Skukuza, and Mbombela/Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA).

From September 1, 2022, Airlink's Lodge Link customers with Sabi Sands bookings (including flights from Arathusa Safari Lodge, Londolozi Game Reserve, and between Skukuza and Mbombela will be accommodated on FedAir. Airlink's Phinda Game Reserve (KZN) bookings will follow suit on October 1, 2022.

"Airlink will be rationalising its Lodge Link services to concentrate on its primary business and growing its expansive network within Southern Africa and further afield, whilst leaving the lodge transfer services in the capable hands of Federal Airlines," said Airlink Chief Executive Officer Rodger Foster. He confirmed to ch-aviation that Airlink had sold its four 12-seater twin pilot Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Caravans that had been used for the service. Three were sold during the pandemic, and the last was acquired recently by FedAir.

A FedAir spokesman confirmed to ch-aviation the company purchased Airlink's last in-house Cessna 208B ZS-MLR (msn 208B-5147) and will take delivery of it in the next two weeks. "Additionally, we will take over the lease [from Airlink] of a second aircraft (directly), ZS-MGC (msn 208B-5209). So by October 2022, FedAir will have taken on the two aircraft," he said.

In addition, FedAir has placed an order with Cessna Aircraft Company/Textron Aviation for the purchase of six new Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX aircraft. Three will be delivered in March 2023 and three in June 2023.

In March 2022, FedAir's fleet comprised four Cessna C208B Caravans, two PC-12s, and one Beech 1900D. At the time, it was looking to add further PC-12 capacity and additional Caravans.

All Airlink's current Lodge Link reservations will be moved across to FedAir on a rolling basis from September. Original flight times would be maintained if possible.

Following a hiatus during Covid-19, Airlink had restarted the Lodge Link service in July 2021.