The volcanic island of St. Helena is one of the most isolated places in the world. Despite its many attractions, the island has not been a regular tourist destination as previously it could only be reached by ship. The island’s airport has been dubbed the “world’s most useless airport” for a couple of years due to cross-wind problems, but Saturday saw the first commercial flight to land in St. Helena.

St. Helena’s airport finally opens to commercial flights

The island is located some 1,200 miles off the coast of Angola and has been an expensive choice to those who have visited in the past.

Before the airport on St. Helena was officially opened, visitors had to endure an expensive, five-night voyage on the RMS St Helena from Cape Town, South Africa. A trip on the British postal ship reportedly didn’t come cheap. Now there will be weekly Commercial Flights to and from Johannesburg, making it far easier, and more affordable, to take a vacation on the island.

As the first commercial flight out of Johannesburg, South Africa landed on St. Helena, all 68 passengers cheered and applauded. The Independent quotes Libby Weir-Breen, a travel operator who has organized trips to the island for tourists for the past 12 years, as saying she has never felt this emotional in her life and that she had never thought she would see that day.

The airport’s terminal and runway were reportedly completed at enormous expense to the U.K. government back in 2016, however the opening was pushed back after test flights hit strong cross-winds, making the new airport unsafe for larger aircraft.

Due to the limits caused by the cross-winds, the inaugural flight could have taken 100 people to the island, however due to weight restrictions only 68 people could make the trip to St. Helena. While the island is hoping for a huge tourist boom, at that rate of passengers, this is thought to be unlikely to happen.

Tourist attractions in St. Helena

St. Helena does have plenty to offer, as the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final years there in exile and his former home, Longwood, is available to visit. Of interest to note, according to AFP, Bonaparte began his exile in 1815, on the same day as the new commercial flight.

Another interesting aspect of the island is a cemetery, holding the remains of many of the 6,000 Afrikaner prisoners who were imprisoned there by the British in the Anglo-Boer Wars against South Africa.

The island also offers beautiful and pristine surroundings with a variety of different scenic areas and views as well as various wildlife and is also popular for scuba diving. As reported by the BBC, visitors can also watch whales gathering off the island’s coast. St. Helena can also now offer more than 100 hotel rooms to visiting guests.

Speaking of its reputation as the “world’s most useless airport,” Governor Lisa Phillips said that airport had already proved its worth well before the first commercial SA Airlink flight landed. Phillips said the airport was “priceless,” as in the last 18 months it had allowed for a number of life-saving emergency medical flights, including that of a newborn child.

Readers can enjoy a short promotional video on St. Helena below.