Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Britain faces being sued as St Helena's airport still too dangerous for commercial flights

The airport is currently unavailable for any commercial flights. Photo: Paul Tyson

The UK faces compensation claims after spending £246million building St Helena's airport, which is too dangerous for commercial flights to use.

Severe wind conditions in the South Atlantic Ocean means that certain planes cannot land or take off safely from the airport.

Residents are demanding compensation for the money lost from expanding their businesses in preparation for the promised tourists.

Hazel Wilmot, owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown, said: “We’ve contacted St Helena Government, Her Majesty’s Government and the Department for International Development and they say there is no mechanism for paying compensation.

“The whole island is suffering; people in the tourism industry, retailers, taxis, hotels and those in the arts and crafts industry. The oldest bar on the island has been closed down because there is no business - we have very few tourists and many empty beds.

“We will be requesting a second judicial review but just seem to be going round and round in circles - We have received no concrete answers.

“I believe that there are certain aircrafts that are lighter and more capable of landing on the island which would enable tourists to visit the island.

“If 50 passengers came over it would fill all of our existing hotels and supply 100% bed night occupancy in St Helena, but in the meantime the island's tourist industry is collapsing and we feel severely let down.”

St Helena is over 1,200 miles from African land. Credit: ITV News

But the island’s Government is working hard to find a way around the current issue.

A spokesperson for St Helena Government said: “We are focused on understanding the weather conditions.

“All parties are working as hard as they can. We’ve looked at planes for the long-term, but there is no specific solution for scheduled flights.”

Less than 1000 tourists visit the island each year, however the British Government predicted that with five flights per week, St Helena would benefit from an extra 30,000 visitors by the year 2042.

Those currently wanting to visit the remote island have to pay around £600 and set aside five days to make the journey by sea.

The only way to travel to St Helena is by a long voyage by sea. Credit: ITV News

The Department for International Development (DFID) says it wants to make sure the airport is safe to open and wants to give St Helena an economic boost.

A spokesperson for the DFID said: "The Secretary of State has been made aware of the existing challenges faced by St Helena Airport that have delayed the start of regular air services.

“Safety is our paramount concern and we will not commence commercial flights until we are satisfied with every aspect of airport operations.

"DFID has a duty to the British taxpayer to ensure value for money as we meet our international obligations to the people of St Helena and the new Secretary of State will demand fresh thinking to make this happen.

"Specific steps are being taken to address the problems with turbulence and wind shear at St Helena Airport which are notoriously difficult to predict in advance. This is our priority."