The chaos at King Shaka International Airport on the afternoon of Durbans World Cup semi-final last year could be replicated in even worse form when the city has a major UN climate change conference later this year, the Airline Pilots Association of SA warns. Photo: Chris Collingridge

A public viewing deck where visitors to the King Shaka International Airport can observe planes land and take off as well as travelators so passengers don’t have to lug their baggage across the building are a few of the proposed changes to the airport as it aims to meet its 2060 goals.

Airports Company South Africa spokesman Colin Naidoo said the airport – which has been operational for 10 months and celebrates its first birthday on May 1 – aimed to become more visitor friendly.

“One of the biggest issues brought to our attention by the public is the lack of a public viewing area, which is a cultural issue as people want to see their loved ones get on to the plane and the take-off.

“We are looking at the feasibility of a viewing deck and travelators – but factors such as cost, location and feasibility have to be looked at. The airport is fully operational at the moment and any disruption could hamper service,” he said.

While phase one of a five-phase plan has been accomplished, Naidoo said the company was looking at implementing changes to reach the final phase which aims at ultimately accommodating 45 million passengers a year in 2060.

He said the airport had handled 5 million passengers to date although it had the capacity to handle 7.5 million passengers a year.

This growth was dependent on passenger growth, but Naidoo was optimistic as there had been an 11 percent growth this year.

“But this is not dependent on the airport solely; the tourism department, hospitality industry and the province have to assist in making Durban a viable destination.”

The bustling airport cost R7.2 billion to build and was built in 33 months which in itself was an achievement, Naidoo said.

“The move 60km from the old site was successful and quiet, with no major disruptions or impositions on residents. Many things changed at the new airport as service levels are better and there is larger capacity for infrastructure.”

The new amenities include after hours banking facilities, shopping, a post office and salon as well as a number of restaurants.

Naidoo said the airport had become a big economic catalyst for the North Coast, with local business benefitting.

A number of developments around the Dube tradeport were poised to take place in the coming years – including a support zone, which would include entertainment and conference facilities, as well as an office block and agrizone – a first, allowing entrepreneurs to cultivate, plant and package their produce directly onto cargo planes for export.

Naidoo said that noise levels were still being monitored where communities complained about the high levels.

“We are working on mitigating the noise where we can, especially with the late night and early morning flights. We have created an e-mail address and a 24-hour hotline where people can raise their concerns.”

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