6 November 2009
To make sure the country can handle the expected massive influx of visitors for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, South Africa’s airports have been undergoing major upgrades, and with seven months to go until kick-off, the final touches are being applied.
However, the upgrades go far beyond catering for the fans during the football World Cup. With R19.5-billion having been ploughed in, South Africa is set to benefit from extensive improvements to air travel and tourism post-2010.
“Transport is the heartbeat of the South African economy,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said at the opening of the revamped Wonderboom Airport in Tshwane/Pretoria this week. “We must continue to intensify our work towards improving the social and economic development of our people.”
Though not normally used as a commercial airport, Wonderboom will provide a service to fans in Tshwane during the World Cup, and has had its arrival and departure lounges refurbished and parking facilities extended for this purpose.
At South Africa’s major airports, upgrade work has included the following.
OR Tambo International
As the main International airport in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport is a transport hub for the country, handling around 16-million passengers (and growing)on a yearly basis.
The airport’s new R2.2-billion central terminal building is well on its way to completion, with parts of it already in public use.
The new atrium at international arrivals, opened in September 2008, is proving to be a popular area for people waiting for passengers. With additional retail facilities and an enlarged and refurbished food court, there is now no shortage of things to do while waiting at OR Tambo.
Seventy-five additional check-in desks were commissioned in the enlarged departures area in April 2009, along with an additional six baggage carousels, allowing passengers to be processed and put on their flights more efficiently.
The addition of a second multi-story parking bay, which will see an additional 5 200 bays in place in time for the World Cup, will go a long way towards accommodating the increase in passengers.
The introduction of bay detection technology has also vastly improved the ease in which passengers can find parking, with green or red lights indicating whether bays are open or not.
Cape Town International
Over six-million passengers pass through Cape Town International Airport each year, and this a figure is expected to double by 2015.
Construction of a new R1.5-billion central terminal building is progressing well, with the new departure facilities currently being commissioned.
A new multi-level, 4 000-bay parkade, built at a cost of R400-million, is due to open in December 2009, with the first 400 bays already open to the public.
The last phase of Cape Town International’s development, due to be complete in March 2010, is the extension to the existing arrivals terminal, with pedestrian connectivity to the central terminal building.
Durban / La Mercy
Work is going well on the brand new R7.5-billion airport which will eventually take over the services of the existing Durban International Airport. With progress now standing at 72%, the landscape on which the new airport is developed has undergone dramatic changes.
The 3.7-kilometre runway will be capable of accommodating the largest carriers, such as the A380, while 6 500 parking bays are under construction.
As one of South Africa’s smaller airports, Bloemfontein Airport handles around 250 000 passengers per year.
The runway has received attention, with a R121-million upgrade to the tarmac which should see a significant increase in usage from next year.
Work on the refurbishment and expansion of the terminal building, to the value of R46-million, is progressing well, and revamped check-in and departure facilities are already in operation.
A new arrivals area and a public concourse has been commissioned, and construction is under way.
Port Elizabeth Airport
As a World Cup host city, with a number of group games as well as one of the quarterfinals being played at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, the Eastern Cape coastal city can expect a big spike in visitor number during and after the World Cup.
To accommodate the expected increase in traffic, the airport’s runway has undergone a R68-million upgrade.
East London Airport
Although East London is not hosting any World Cup matches, it will act as an important gateway to Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.
A R98-million expansion and refurbishment of the airports terminal building is progressing well, with some of the revamped areas already open for public use. An R8-million upgrade of the parking facilities has also been completed.
Other airports in World Cup host cities have also been preparing for an increase in passenger numbers.
With a new terminal, Polokwane International Airport will handle around 400 passengers per hour. The addition of new parking facilities and passenger pick-up zones have also been included in the upgrade plans for the airport, which will service passengers arriving for matches at Peter Mokaba stadium.
Nelspruit, with two airports – Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and Nelspruit Airport – already caters for a large number of tourists wanting to visit the Kruger National Park. Hosting a number of opening round games at Mbombela Stadium, the two airports will be in full use over the months of June and July 2010.