South African Express (XZ, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has suspended flights to Mthatha following the airfield's recent downgrade from Category III to Category IV compliance.

According to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), its decision to downgrade the airfield comes amid concerns over the aerodrome's rescue and fire-fighting service responses. Another concern relates to its emergency management systems.

As a consequence, SA Express said it had suspended its 11x weekly CRJ200-operated service to Mthatha from Johannesburg O.R. Tambo effective January 25.

As the downgrade precludes the deployment of large commercial aircraft to Mthatha, Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has, for its part, revised an earlier statement and has announced it will continue to serve Mthatha albeit using a smaller Jetstream 41 turboprop.

SACAA has since said it would consider returning Mthatha to Category III once all its concerns have been fully addressed.