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ACSA ready for huge festive season passenger rush

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) is pleased to announce that it is ready to welcome large volumes of travellers to its airports across the country this festive season, with contingency plans and strategies in place to deal with the busiest days of the year.

ACSA is currently in its peak season, which started at the end of October 2023 and runs until the end of March 2024, for which preparation started three to four months ago. The group is now ramping up to ensure smooth operations and a seamless travel experience during the busy December-January time frame.

“We are ready to face the festive season and I’m confident that our carefully planned response to the massive numbers of passengers who will be passing through our airport network is more than adequate to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for holidaymakers,” says ACSA CEO Mpumi Mpofu.

In terms of the busiest days and weeks during the festive season, OR Tambo International Airport’s busiest week is expected to be between 11 and 17 December, with its busiest day set to be 11 December when 285 departing and 292 arriving aircraft movements are predicted, with 28 727 passengers departing and 29 315 passengers arriving at the airport

Cape Town International Airport’s busiest week will be between January 1 and January 7, with January 1 being the busiest day with 264 aircraft movements and 32,750 passengers arriving and departing. King Shaka International Airport is set to record its busiest week between December 11 and 17, with December December expected to be its busiest day with 131 aircraft movements and 19,602 passengers moving through the airport.

Mpofu notes that ACSA has seen a steady recovery over the past three years.  The company has seen a growth of 83% in passenger numbers and 87% in air traffic movements as of the end of October. There has also been a growth of 18% in passenger numbers and 9% in. air traffic movements since 2022.

“In all three of our market segments—domestic, regional and international—new routes and route expansions by both local and foreign airlines continue to support the recovery of passenger traffic. This is evident from the fact that in FY2022/23, the overall growth of 33% in capacity led to a 50% increase in passenger traffic,” says Mpofu.

“Globally, the recovery in air traffic continued to be firm, which supported our own recovery. By the end of March 2023, industry-wide revenue passenger-kilometres “RPKs” (a measure of air passenger traffic) increased by 52.4% year-on-year (YoY) and reached 88% of March 2019 levels.”

ACSA’s three main airports—OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport—continue to account for 85% of all air passenger traffic in South Africa, with OR Tambo International accounting for 49% of all departing traffic.

Regional inland airports, such as Upington, Kimberley and Bram Fischer (Bloemfontein), continue to record good recovery rates, mainly as a result of slow normalisation in business travel and the core “visiting friends and relatives” (VFR) segment. Coastal airports are more reliant on leisure traffic and have thus not fared as well due to a significant reduction in leisure travel because of the increases in ticket prices as well as the impact high inflation and interest rates had on discretionary spending.

“Cape Town International Airport was the major beneficiary in terms of international passengers, with throughput exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels for the first time in February and March 2023. This was partly due to the normalisation in the number of visitors from Europe during our summer months and partly due to route expansions and new capacity favouring Cape Town,” says Mpofu.

Terence Delomoney, Group Executive Operations Management at ACSA, says ACSA’s peak season strategy will ensure that the airports are adequately resourced, positioned and capacitated to handle the huge volumes of passengers. The strategy involves collaboration by various stakeholders, among them ACSA, the airports, the South African Police Service and the Border Management Authority, as well as other state entities that have each contributed an operational deployment plan for the festive season.

The main factors that were considered in ACSA’s peak season planning include infrastructure availability (such as parking and check-in counters), capacity and demand analysis, fuel management and operational risk mitigation plans.

Delomoney explains that through this plan, every stakeholder is aware of what to expect and what is expected of them regarding resource planning for the busiest time. He notes that ACSA has been hard at work to increase its human resources within its network and that it has also deployed new infrastructure and introduced technology solutions to provide excellent service during this holiday season.

“A main focus area is the availability of key services and infrastructure across the airports to ensure that these operate reliably and efficiently. This includes lifts, escalators, travellators and trolleys—all the equipment needed to facilitate the seamless movement of passengers. In this area, ACSA has exceeded its availability targets,” says Delomoney.

He notes that in terms of airport security, various critical areas and potential risks were identified, with terminal buildings, airside, landside, cargo, general aviation and remote side being identified as critical sectors. Potential threats include unruly passengers, robberies, unauthorised access, trespassing, sabotage, theft and vandalism. To mitigate these risks, Delomoney says that several interventions have been put in place such as guarding, patrols, surveillance, screening (searches of persons and baggage), monitoring of passenger behaviour and large bags and access control.

Each airport has made unique improvements to its infrastructure and services to ensure that travellers have a smooth and seamless customer journey. For example, Cape Town International Airport has opened a new international business lounge for departing passengers and also expanded its hospitality and retail offerings in the domestic terminal. OR Tambo International Airport parking project has completed the installation of new equipment and is in the final commissioning phase. This includes new features like credit card tap in and out, as well as the ability to book parking through the ACSA app. Additional long-stay parking will be provided for the upcoming holiday period. King Shaka International Airport is working with the Border Management Authority to find ways to quickly and efficiently process the thousands of passengers who will fly in to board a cruise ship in Durban over the coming weeks. Passengers are encouraged to plan ahead, arriving at the airport at least an hour before domestic flights and two hours before international flights. Adherence to hand luggage restrictions and using official transport operators is advised for a smoother travel experience.

“I would say that it is all systems go at ACSA’s airports and we are looking forward to a successful festive season that will see a huge number of passengers arrive and depart to their holiday destinations in a stress-free and well-managed environment,” concludes Delomoney.

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