Big changes for airports in South Africa this holiday season

 ·17 Oct 2022

The Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) said that it is gearing up to upgrade OR Tambo International Airport alongside others ahead of the December rush.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Acsa spokesperson Samukelo Khambule said that the company will focus on expanding infrastructure and capacity in the medium and long term.

Acsa said it aims to move away from outdated business practices, such as parking machines that only accept cash, and recover from the pandemic by reopening shops and restaurants.

With OR Tambo as a starting point, Khambule outlined the company’s massive push towards digitalisation with a revised parking system that can recognise a licence plate and the upgrading of pay stations.

Alongside the tech upgrades, fundamental infrastructure is set to be given a fresh coat of paint, with lighting, escalators, restaurants and windows all to be deep cleaned and bought back to service.

Both King Shaka International Airport in Durban and Cape Town International Airport are implementing similar upgrades to their airport services.

Other improvements include:

  • Security systems
  • Boarding bridges
  • Taxiways
  • Check-in bays

OR Tambo will also be the first airport in South Africa to use the South African Revenue Service’s new digital travel pass, which will come into effect from 1 Novemeber 2022.

The new system will simplify passenger movement at South African airports, SARS said, collecting necessary travel information and, in return, granting a traveller pass via email.

It requires that all travellers – including South African citizens and residents, children and infants – leaving or entering South Africa by air complete the declaration. SARS said that once completed and submitted, travellers will receive a pass before they board.

The new online system will be rolled out in all South African international airports, starting with OR Tambo International Airport and then to others in the first quarter of 2023, the revenue service said.

In September, Acsa announced its financial results for the year ending March 2022 with an R1 billion loss as the company tried to bring itself back to pre-pandemic levels.

The chief executive Mpumi Mpofu said that the decrease was narrowed when compared to the year before loss of R2.6 billion (2020/21) due to the intermittent recovery in passenger numbers.

The group’s executive said that the company is in a recovery phase and will continue to monitor the local and international business environment to determine appropriate responses to challenges that may arise.

The Department of Transport has had its eye on the expansion of South Africa’s airports; in June of this year, it said that increased attention would be given to the sector in the coming years.

Proposals to broaden existing international airports into larger ‘aerotropolises’ while investigating the need for smaller, less profitable airports, were made by the department.

Despite plans by the government to upgrade the sector – private entities are wanting to be involved. Calls have been made by private stakeholders to purchase parts of Acsa’s airport capacity, but this has faced pushback from the government.

A R2 billion offer was tabled by South African billionaire Rob Hersov in mid-September to buy six regional airports that he said he could turn into successful money-making enterprises.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula however, opposed this move, saying that there is no need for the state-owned aviation sector to divest equity in favour of private shareholding.

Read: Everyone’s leaving to the Western Cape – here’s what you can get for R5 million

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