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All systems go for peak travel season at Asca’s airports

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) says it is “geared up” and ready to handle the millions of passengers who will pass through its airports during the upcoming travel peak this festive season.

The company noted during a press briefing on Tuesday morning that the busiest days for departures and arrivals at its key hubs – OR Tambo International Airport (Ortia), Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) – will be Thursday 15 December and Friday 6 January.

It says its main focus, through its integrated peak season plan, is on the availability of key services and infrastructure across the airports to ensure reliable and efficient operations.

“This includes lifts, escalators, travelators, and trolleys, all the equipment needed to facilitate the seamless movement of passengers.”

It has also introduced several technology solutions, including e-gates, to streamline passenger processing and shorten queues.

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Acsa CEO Mpumi Mpofu says there has also been a focus on “upgrading and expanding” parking infrastructure, including replacing equipment that had reached end of life. This includes new parking payment machines to address areas of congestion and provide a “more efficient and user-friendly parking procedure at our airports”.

The company expects its ‘Acsa App’ – with features such as flight information and details about parking payment points – to facilitate a more seamless experience for passengers.

“We’ve been hard at work to increase our human resources, but we’ve also reopened more areas, such as lounges and parkades, and introduced technology solutions and general improvements across our airports to be able to provide excellent service during this holiday season,” says Mpofu.

Jet fuel

Commenting on the issue of jet fuel shortages experienced during the year at Ortia and CPT, Mpofu says “jet fuel supply challenges are a thing of the past”.

“Stock levels at these airports dropped to alarmingly low levels at times during the year as the supply chain was hit by flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and a shipment delayed by high seas en route to Cape Town.

“We are happy to announce that fuel stock levels have stabilised and that all our airports have sufficient stock to comfortably meet current peak season demand,” she says.

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“We do not foresee any further problems with the availability of jet fuel.”

Industry recovery

Mpofu says the company’s integrated season plan will ensure that airports are adequately resourced, positioned and capacitated to handle the high volumes of passengers.

“It took months of planning, but we finalised our integrated peak season plan and implemented it at the end of October.

“Overall, we are pleased with what has been an initially difficult and slow response to robust recovery in passenger movements and air traffic volumes during this year.”

Acsa’s Terence Delomoney (group executive, operations management) says global air travel is expected to fully recover by 2025.

This is according to Airports Council International (ACI).

“North and South America [are] expected to fully recover in 2023 while Europe, Africa and the Middle East will recover in 2024, and Asia only seeing recovery in 2025.”

Acsa says ACI data shows a strong demand for air travel despite the heightened macro-economic risks, with forecasts seeing a continued dynamic in the second half of 2022.

“ACI attributes the positive performance to fewer health and travel restrictions in many European and African countries and in the Americas, leaving room for renewed industry optimism.”

Read: Airlines still see return to profit next year [Nov 2022]

It notes that global domestic passenger traffic is expected to reach pre-Covid levels in late 2023 with full-year 2023 traffic in line with 2019 levels.

“Global international passenger traffic will require another year to recover fully, reaching 2019 levels into the second half of 2024.”

Delomoney says by the end of October the Acsa network had seen a recovery to 70% of pre-Covid numbers – with domestic travel accounting for 72% of this and international travel the balance.

He adds that South Africa is seeing the return of business travel, which drove traffic particularly during September and October.

Mpofu says the company is looking forward to a successful season in which passengers reach and return from their holiday destinations in a stress-free and well-managed environment.

Listen to FlySafair Kirby Gordon outlining the airline’s ‘quite aggressive’ expansion plan (or read the transcript here):

You can also listen to this podcast on iono.fm here.

Nondumiso Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.

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