Lanseria International Airport

Janine Erasmus

Lanseria is Gauteng province’s second international airport – the other being the higher-profile OR Tambo International. While the latter is still the entry point for most commercial travellers into South Africa, Lanseria has established itself as the leading general airport in Africa and is increasing its scheduled passenger flights as well.

Located northeast of Johannesburg, Lanseria is surrounded by largely unspoiled and undeveloped landscapes that stretch all the way to the blue foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains further to the north.

One of South Africa’s most popular budget airlines – kulula.com, with its distinctive bright green livery – is now in its second year of scheduled flights between Lanseria and popular local destinations Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth. More flights will be added during 2008 to accommodate the increasing demand for scheduled services from Lanseria.

“The demographics are in our favour,” says airport manager Gavin Sayce. “Gauteng’s flying population is moving out to this area. Johannesburg’s northwest is becoming an area of choice for both urban and commercial development, and OR Tambo International, as frequent passengers know, can get very congested.”

Lanseria was established in 1974 by two pilots from Pretoria and is the only private airport in South Africa with international status. While OR Tambo and other major South African airports fall under the umbrella of the partially state-owned Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), Lanseria is privately owned by a consortium of investors.

Getting bigger and better

The airport is currently undergoing a series of upgrades that will provide extra capacity for the ever-increasing amount of daily traffic, especially with the 2010 Fifa World CupTM almost in sight. A South African Civil Aviation Authority task team has evaluated the capacities of airports in regions where football games will take place and is in the process of matching demand with supply.

Development work in progress includes the imminent completion of a 20 000m2 apron extension to accommodate kulula.com’s new Boeing 737 fleet. This involved the removal of three hangars to make way for more apron space. “We’re also finishing an extension of the runway system – this began two years ago. It’s basically an upgrade to the taxiway which makes it easier for larger aircraft to navigate the runways,” says Sayce.

Lanseria can currently accommodate large aircraft such as the American Air Force C17 freight craft, and passenger planes including the Boeing 757, the full range of Boeing’s 737 fleet, and the Airbus A319.

Completed projects include an expansion of the departure hall and the installation of a new baggage carousel in the arrivals hall. In addition, the parking area’s capacity has more than doubled and now can accommodate 1 300 cars. All of Lanseria’s parking spaces are covered with a canopy – not shade cloth – and golf carts are standing by for those unable to find a space close to the terminal.

A preferred point of entry

Already Lanseria is something of a preferred entry point for celebrities, heads of state and other VIPs. With its reputation as a hub for private, diplomatic and corporate transport, it is expected that Fifa officials, sponsors and teams that have their own air transport will use Lanseria when they move in and out of Gauteng.

Kulula.com commenced its services after research indicated that residents from Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, as well as those from Pretoria, would welcome a scheduled service out of Lanseria. And the decision to go ahead has paid off. According to Airport Media, which operates in the niche sector of advertising at airports, the number of passengers has increased from 170 000 to 600 000 in just two years.

Air Travelmax offers scheduled flights from Lanseria to the exotic destinations of Inhambane and Vilanculos in Mozambique, favourites among diving enthusiasts. The airline introduced a new route in March 2008 – to Hoedspruit in Limpopo, situated within easy reach of the Kruger National Park and big game country. This will give Lanseria’s clients access to some of the best game reserves in South Africa.

Rovos Air also has its base at Lanseria. This is the airborne division of luxury travel operator Rovos, and offers air safaris in its fleet of classic aircraft, one of which celebrated its 70th year of service in 2005. Regular destinations include Cape Town, George – part of the Garden Route on South Africa’s southern coast – and Victoria Falls in Zambia. The airline offers annual excursions to Swakopmund in Namibia and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, among others.

Says Sayce, “There is interest from other airlines now. Initially we won’t be looking at any expansion of our scheduled morning and evening services, but during the day there will be space for the introduction of new flights.”

Travel with a personal touch

OR Tambo last year handled over 18 million passengers, says that airport’s GM Chris Hlekane, and is expecting between 20 and 22 million in 2010. In comparison about 1 500 passengers move through Lanseria’s terminal doors every day, but Sayce says this allows his staff to make their passengers’ travelling experience more personal.

“We have a departure lounge for all our scheduled passengers,” explains Lanseria marketing and PR manager Lize Nel, “where they can relax, read the newspaper, access the internet, and enjoy some coffee or something stronger from the cash bar – the latter is the only service they pay for. At bigger airports you would find these facilities only in business and first class lounges.”

The airport also maintains arrival and departure facilities for general aviation passengers, whose requirements differ from those of scheduled passengers. “We created a separate area which would be mainly used by the charter operators, corporate companies and individuals. All international flights will still use international departures,” Sayce explains.

For international passengers, relevant government departments such as Immigration, Border Police (part of the South African Police Service), Customs and Excise, Health, Nature Conservation, Agriculture, National Intelligence and Veterinarian Services are represented at Lanseria. They are open around the clock.

The airport also has a large variety of aviation-related tenants – these range from the scheduled and charter operators to aircraft sales, freight services, flight schools, and other maintenance services such as engineering, upholstery and spray-painting. Other facilities such as w-fi access, foreign exchange, and a duty-free shop are available.

Destinations all across South Africa

Lanseria and Hoedspruit are just two of hundreds of civil, private and military airports around South Africa. From Aberdeen to Zeerust, and from Musina on South Africa’s northernmost border to Cape Town at the southern tip of the country, there is a network of airports ranging in size and scope from amongst the busiest in the world to little more than a flattened strip of sand.

Acsa operates airports in all the major cities and a number of smaller ones such as Kimberley, Pilanesberg and Upington. Colourful names abound, such as Giants Castle Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal), Henry’s Flats (Eastern Cape), Tsitsikama Fly Inn (Eastern Cape), and HMS Bastard Memorial (KwaZulu-Natal).

Several private game reserves such as Mala Mala have their own airstrips, and the Kruger National Park maintains a small private airport at Skukuza, one of its most popular rest camps.

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