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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Let’s open the borders, fly and create jobs to save SA economy, says Acsa

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 24, 2020


Johannesburg - The Airports Company of South Africa has been forced to end infrastructure projects worth billions of rand after taking a massive financial knock as a result of Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Acsa says they are projecting a 50% decline on last year’s 46 million passengers. On top of this, Acsa says, they will only reach 2019’s 46 million passengers again by 2023.

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The state-owned entity says if the government opens the borders and South Africans get flying again, more than 77 000 jobs in the sector can be saved and a further 472 000 jobs in the tourism sector can be unlocked in the economy.

“Our industry depends on people, without the public, there is no airport. Aviation has taken a huge knock from Covid-19 and the sooner the borders open, the sooner we can save jobs.

’’We are talking about 77 000 jobs and if you look at the broader impact on tourism, we are talking about 472 000 jobs,” Acsa’s group executive for corporate affairs, Refentse Skinners, said during an interview with IOL.

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Skinners said the pandemic had forced the company to extend a R3.2bn credit agreement with commercial banks to ensure their economic recovery over the short-to-medium term.

During levels 4 and 5, Acsa said it was operating at a very small scale facilitating repatriation and cargo flights.

Since June, flights at the international airports in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg were allowed to operate for business travel, while some vendors were also allowed to operate again.

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Skinners said tenants at the airport had been negatively impacted by the pandemic and Acsa in turn had not been able to collect rental income since April.

He said the impact of the lockdown had caused Acsa to cancel all its capital expenditure expansion programmes around the country, except one project of building an office park at the OR Tambo International Airport.

She said the CapEx projects were worth R11bn and would have seen jobs being created and the construction of a new runway and new domestic arrivals building at the Cape Town International Airport, more apron stands at OR Tambo and smaller similar projects at the smaller airports.

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“Unfortunately, we had to put everything on hold, except the construction of the office block at OR Tambo because that was already at 60% through, so we could not stop,” she said.

“Our infrastructure expansion is based on projections on the increase in passenger and airline traffic. When that gets wiped out as it has, that means there is no need to spend.

“The sooner we are able to get back to the numbers of December 2019, the sooner we will be able to resume those programmes and whether they will be the same shape or form, we do not know,” she said.

Skinners said despite the agony of the past few months, Acsa was looking to diversify its revenue income streams by expanding on its property portfolio and looking to grow cargo revenues.

“We need to get as many people to travel as possible to save 77 000 jobs, we need goods to be moved using air cargo and we will develop an appealing property portfolio.

“We need to make sure the demand is there, because if more people travel, there are more expansion projects that we can invest in, which also means we can contribute towards the GDP at a bigger scale,” she said.


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