Lanseria: small but effective

6 July 2004

The tar road stops at the turnoff to Lanseria International Airport in outer Randburg – and gives way to grassy koppies, bunches of poplar trees and the Crocodile River.

The airport, about 40km from Johannesburg’s city centre, couldn’t stand in greater contrast to its surroundings: it’s slick, squeaky clean and has the stamp of executive jets and corporate travellers all over it – from the sparkling white tiles right up to the triple-volume ceiling with its chrome beams and huge glass frontage.

The building, which was refurbished in 2002, sparkles. It’s finished in pleasing white and metal, and the exterior is spotless – decorated with palms and neatly manicured lawns. Parking is just across the road.

Lanseria is small but it was built to be an international airport 30 years ago. It has two runways used by 90 000 flights each year. Last year about 160 000 passengers passed through its small terminal.

In comparison, the much larger OR Tambo (formerly Johannesburg) International Airport handles 130 000 flights and 13 million passengers each year.

Way back in 1974 two pilots, Fanie Haacke and Abe Sher, identified the need for an airport to the north-west of Johannesburg and presented their proposal to the acting minister of transport, Hannes Rall.

He turned to them and asked in Afrikaans: “Wanneer lanseer ons dit [when do we launch it]?” The airport officials latched on to “lanseer” and Lanseria was born.

In the early days Lanseria was used by mineworkers from Malawi and neighbouring countries, who landed in DC3 and DC4 planes. These days VIPs, presidents and celebrities take advantage of Lanseria’s quiet and personal service.

Mark Shuttleworth, the Internet billionaire, has touched down at Lanseria in his jet; overseas corporate passengers like the airport too.

Execujet, an executive jet company, rents space at Lanseria; so do South African Breweries, Amalgamated Beverages, Rembrandt, Billiton and Barlows. Several smaller airlines – Comair, Rovas Air, SA Airlink, Eurocopter and Ross Air – use the airport as their base.

The airport offers the full range of services offered at OR Tambo International: a 24-hour immigration and customs service, foreign exchange, car hire, parking, a duty-free shop and a domestic business lounge. And, for airlines and private users, there is 24-hour refuelling and fire and emergency services.

The airport’s popularity is growing – its 160 000 passengers last year were up from 98 000 in 1998. There’s one good reason, says Lize Nel, its public relations and marketing manager: “Our volumes are smaller but we focus on efficient service and convenience.”

Check-in time is 25 minutes before take off. A good deal of the airport’s custom comes from Sandton, an easy 20-minute trip away.

The airport has just re-introduced the Lanseria-Cape Town route with SA Airlink – Comair’s replacement – especially for business people.

Lanseria wants to grow its customer base and accommodate airbuses, so it has extended and widened the runways. And the control tower will be moved to the southern side of the airport at the end of 2004, to improve visibility and upgrade equipment.

Source: City of Johannesburg