According to the Airports Company of SA, the number of international visitors was 10 percent lower last month than in the same month the year before, while domestic arrivals were down 6 percent. About 760 000 passengers arrived at the airport last month. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - There’s been a drop in the number of passenger arrivals at Cape Town International Airport this festive season.

And Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has blamed it on airlines pulling international flights and the closure of two popular budget airlines, Velket Sky and 1Time.

About 760 000 passengers – 162 774 international and regional and 597 213 domestic – moved through the airport during December, a 6 percent decrease compared to December 2011.

International and domestic arrivals dropped by 10 percent and six percent respectively.

The decrease in passenger numbers was largely due to SAA pulling its daily London-Heathrow flight and the closure of Velvet Sky and 1Time, said Acsa Cape Town spokeswoman Deidre Davids.

The flat growth was expected, she said, when compared to the high growth figures of last year.

However, the airport was “still extremely busy this time of year”, Davids said.

In December 2011, the airport had 86 910 international arrivals, 12 436 more than in December 2010. Regional and domestic arrivals were also up by 26.78 percent and 4.52 percent respectively.

Last October the airport started welcoming back a number of seasonal carriers, ranging from Virgin Atlantic, which connects the city directly to London-Heathrow airport; Air France flying directly to Charles de Gaulle in Paris; Edelweiss which flies directly to Zurich, Switzerland; Lufthansa Airline which flies to Munich, and Condor Airlines which flies directly to Frankfurt.

“Despite this and due to a number of factors, a decline in passenger numbers had been anticipated this summer,” Davids said.

“This picture can largely be attributed to activities on the international front where air traffic movement was lost.”

International flights pulled last year include:

l Etihad airline which operated seven flights a week;

l SAA’s London-Heathrow which operated seven flights a week; and

l Air Malaysia’s four weekly flights.

Domestically, Velvet Sky, which operated 39 flights a week, and 1Time, which operated 51 weekly flights, also closed.

Meanwhile, local tourism authorities are confident international visitors will start streaming into the city from early next month.

Cape Town Tourism said February was expected to be the busiest month for tourism establishments.

In the first three months of last year, more than 420 000 people visited the Western Cape.

The Table Mountain Cableway sold a record number of tickets (119 000) in December and more than three million people visited the V&A Waterfront. - Cape Argus