Johannesburg - South Africa's airports are gearing up to receive an estimated half-a-million visitors for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with improved facilities through a $35-million IT programme.
Under a five-year contract announced on Wednesday, State Information Technology Agency (SITA) will provide Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) with the equipment and infrastructure for both agent check-in and passenger self-service kiosk check-in at all its airports.
Acsa operates 10 of the country's airports and handles around 98 percent of South Africa's commercial air traffic, reports SouthAfrica.info.
The programme will immediately benefit the three international airports in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and the local airport in Port Elizabeth.
SITA has also agreed with Aviation Coordination Services (ACS), which represents the 75 airlines using South African airports, to provide continued maintenance and operation of the CUTE (Common Use Terminal Equipment) and CUSS (Common Use Self Service) check-in environment.
"SITA currently supplies many of the airport systems in South Africa, but Acsa and ACS took the opportunity to review and upgrade services before 2010 to ensure that the surge of passengers travelling to the World Cup games could be handled with ease," SITA said in a statement on Wednesday.
Acas operations director Bongani Maseko said South Africa's airports would be "the first and last experience our international visitors will have during the World Cup, so it is vital that we are well prepared.
"As part of this agreement with SITA, we have already installed new check-in equipment and trained all airline staff at the central terminal building in Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport.
"Work in the other terminals there will be completed in the coming months, and the new terminal at Cape Town International Airport will be opening in November 2009," Maseko said.
In total, 64 world cup games will be played at 10 venues across the country between 11 June and 11 July 2010.
SITA's Khodr Akil said that during this period, South Africa's airports "will have to handle up to 78 000 passengers and 260 international flights a day and will also require the capability to respond flexibly to airline schedule demands at peak times.
"Our common use check-in technology, SITA Airport Connect Open, will ensure that all work stations across the country's airports will be available for use by the approximately 75 different airlines handling these passengers, thus maximising the use of these resources to ensure smooth passenger management and minimize delays.
"This shared infrastructure will provide the flexibility necessary to respond quickly to individual airline needs," Akil said.
SITA has worked with a number of airports around the world as they prepared for major events, the most recent being Beijing International Airport ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.
"The key to success in handling large passenger flows is to have the most suitable technology in place before the main event, making sure that all systems are tested and that staff are trained.
"Acsa and ACS are well advanced in this and, with SITA's support, will be well and truly ready by June 2010," Akil said.