Airports gear for lift off

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pretoria - With the World Cup only a few days away, South African airports are putting in the final touches to ensure that locals and visitors alike receive the most efficient service.

Cape Town International Airport is expecting the number of passengers flying into the airport to increase to about 30 000 passengers passing through its corridors in peak days compared to just over 25 000 passengers that passed through its doors in peak days last year.

"From a planning and preparation perspective we will be able to accommodate the maximum scenario of approximately 43 000 passengers, however it is more likely that we will see an average of approximately 30 000 passengers per day," said communication manager at the airport Deidre Hendricks.

This as the country prepares for the World Cup, the first to be hosted on African soil on 11 June. The airport has put in place measures to deal with increased activity. The airport will operate on a 24-hour basis, while retailers will extend their hours in relation to flight schedules among other things.

Hendricks said the airport wants to ensure that passengers move in and out as easily as possible. This includes strict security arrangements that have been put in place for teams jetting into the country.

"Unfortunately this means that the general public and even members of the media will not have an opportunity to see them," said Hendricks.

In order to check on the airport's transport abilities on land it conducted a dry run last weekend in order to test its ability to deal with an increase in shuttles and coaches in particular.

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has built a temporary facility at O.R. Tambo International Airport to process teams during the World Cup. The facility was designed with full processing capacity for both international and local arrivals and departures.

OR Tambo has also improved on-time flight departures from 78 percent to 86 percent. Waiting time at Immigration has improved from 25 minutes to eight minutes. Security processing has improved to two minutes from nine, whilst the global benchmark is 10 minutes.

In order to accommodate the additional buses and taxis required to transport arriving passengers to their destinations, the lower roadway will be closed for normal traffic and the standard pick-up service.

Members of the public who will need to collect passengers are advised to use normal parking areas. At present O.R. Tambo International Airport has 17,500 parking bays that motorists can choose from. The current grace period of 15 minutes free parking has been extended to 30 minutes during the World Cup period. In addition, people are encouraged to use the SMS line - 36848 - which provides updates on expected flight arrival and departure times. Simply sms "Parking" or the flight number, such as "SA321", to this number for up-to-date information.

An integrated public transport plan has been agreed to, to ensure seamless transportation of passengers to and from the airport and stadia. The opening of the Gautrain link between the airport and Sandton will most certainly alleviate pressure.

For their part, the Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein International Airports will experience passenger volumes that exceed normal infrastructure capacities. To accommodate this, temporary terminal building facilities were created at both airports to handle the extra numbers. Each of these temporary terminals is able to accommodate both arriving and departing passengers, with their maximum capacity being 350 passengers per hour.

KwaZulu-Natal's King Shaka International Airport will move its public pick-up and drop-off areas in anticipation of the thousands of passengers who will pass through the airport during the World Cup.

To accommodate the unprecedented high number of airline passengers into Durban for the tournament, ACSA has developed a Special Transport Operational Plan.

As part of the plan the public drop-off and pick-up area will be moved from its current location to a designated area in the shaded parking from 6 June.

The eastern portion of the airport's shaded parking has been temporarily converted into a pick-up and drop-off area. The public and all unaccredited vehicles will be directed to this new parking area from 6 June to 11 July. Those who use this area illegally or leave their vehicle unattended will find their vehicles wheel-clamped or towed away. Cars will be allowed in the parking area for an hour.

The eThekwini Municipality will also operate an Airport to City Shuttle at 10 to 15 minute intervals. The shuttle will travel from the airport through Umhlanga Rocks, Gateway, along Durban's beachfront and stop at the city's Central Transport Hub.