R3bn upgrade for Cape Town airport

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REALIGNMENT: Cape Town International Airport hopes to enlarge its runways to accommodate bigger aircraft.

Cape Town - So much is happening – or is going to happen – in the airline business that it’s hard to know where to start.

Deon Cloete, the general manager of Cape Town Airport, is hoping to be given the go-ahead to start a R3-billion programme to realign its two runways to handle more airline traffic more efficiently, to cope with the larger aircraft airlines are acquiring.

He says the realignment will also create the space for the passenger terminals, which have regularly been judged the best in Africa, to be changed from their present elongated shape to a more compact square one, cutting out much of the walking passengers have to do. But apart from the need for Acsa (the Airports Company SA) to decide definitely on this programme and on how to raise the money, Cloete says they will also ask the airlines to agree to the details and will not go ahead without this.

Most of the airlines using our airport complained about the cost of the improvements carried out without consultation here and in Joburg and Durban in time for the Fifa World Cup in 2010. Most of the costs have been passed on in the form of higher airport charges. But many of the improvements at Cape Town were needed because of the huge growth in the number of flights and passengers since the end of apartheid and the lifting of sanctions.

In the months before the soccer World Cup, a marquee had to be used in Cape Town to accommodate the number of passengers waiting for flights after passing through security. However, part of the reason for the high charges at all of South Africa’s state-owned airports is that they include work carried out in developing the new King Shaka Airport at Durban in time for the World Cup which, it was suggested, was carried out several years before it was needed.

Few international airlines have so far used King Shaka, preferring to arrive in South Africa at Joburg’s OR Tambo Airport, from where Durban-bound passengers go on with domestic flights.

In the meantime, British Airways – one of the few international airlines to fly into Cape Town all year round – has announced that instead of reducing its services between here and London from two a day in summer to one a day during our winter, it will provide 10 a week to encourage more business travel.

This will help to compensate for SAA’s withdrawal of all services between Cape Town and London to use its fleet on improving its route network into Africa.

Fears that SAA’s withdrawal would hit our tourism industry have proved groundless, with Air France and holiday airline Condor, based in Frankfurt, joining several European airlines in providing flights to Cape Town during the summer months. But most of these airlines withdraw in our winter.

Turkish Airlines, a four-star airline which also flies here all year round and is a partner of SAA in the international Star Alliance, has been awarded the coveted CAPA (Centre for Aviation) Airline of the Year award for excellence and for having the greatest impact on the development of the industry.

Presenting the award this week, Peter Harbison, the executive chairman of CAPA – the leading provider of airline intelligence and data – said Turkish had created the world’s largest international network, flying to 200 destinations from its home airport in Istanbul. He said it had forged an industry-leading service culture, offering a consistently high-quality product.

Coveted Skytrax awards it has won during the past four years included those for best airline in Europe, best business class catering, best economy class catering and best on-board food. - Weekend Argus

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