OR Tambo International Airport says it is geared to facilitate significantly higher numbers of passengers over the December holiday period compared to the past few months, and is anticipating a good holiday season in spite of the later closure of schools and businesses for the year.
However, airport management has urged passengers who will be flying in the coming weeks and who likely have not travelled by air in the past 12 months to prepare themselves for end-to-end wearing of masks and other health precautions.
The airport’s projections, based on slot bookings by airlines and factoring in the later start to school holidays, indicate that the peak date for departing passengers will be 18 December 2020. The peak date for passengers arriving at the airport is expected to be 21 January 2021.
Spokesperson Samukelo Khambule said key measures adopted early in the lockdown period have been further eased and that the airport will more closely resemble the experience of passengers before Covid-19.
“From this week the airport has been opened to members of the public for the first time since 27 March. In addition, the lower roadway has been opened for pick-ups which will ease congestion in Parkade 2 South,” she said.
“Since restrictions began to be lifted from June, the number of passengers returning to the skies has grown gradually but steadily,” says Khambule.
From the beginning of June, the airport said it has facilitated 218,708 departing domestic passengers and 2,385 arriving domestic flights.
The market for international and regional flights reopened from 20 November. The regional market has accumulated 4,587 departing passengers and 259 arriving movements. The international market has accumulated 48,598 departing passengers and 112 arriving movements since 20 November 2020.
“While we expect increased volumes of passengers and flights over December and January, the total is likely to be about half of the 2019 holiday season,” said Khambule.
“With the start of Lift and the return of some domestic carriers, we have reason to be optimistic that passenger growth will improve further in the coming months.”
Khambule said holiday season passengers need to follow the protocols around masks, physical distancing and sanitation.
“To ensure sufficient processing time, we encourage passengers to arrive early at the airport, at least two hours before your flight for domestic travel and four hours for international travel.
“We should all remain acutely conscious of the increased risks whenever larger numbers of people congregate. The national Covid situation is something that should drive renewed commitment to following simple measures that protect each of us.
Khambule said that the airport is reluctant to adopt a ‘heavy-handed approach’ to enforcement of the health protocols. She added that ‘Covid monitors’ are in place across the airport, but it is not possible to police every person in every queue.
It is therefore essential that travellers and airport visitors continue to apply good judgment, particularly in terms of physical distancing, Khambule said.
She said passengers and those transporting them to the airport also need to verify that they are not parked in a high-tariff zone before leaving their vehicles.
At the security search point, passengers need to self-divest which means removing belts, watches, keys, jewellery and other items in pockets. This will assist with quick processing of passengers, she said.