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South Africa’s biggest airports are getting a R21.7-billion upgrade

The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) has earmarked R21.7 billion for upgrades to six of the country’s most important airports.

According to Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga, this is the largest capital investment programme undertaken since the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The investment primarily focuses on refurbishments and improvements to efficiency, safety, statutory compliance measures, and the overall passenger experience, reported BusinessTech.

The airports affected by the investment include Cape Town International, Chief Dawid Stuurman International (Gqeberha), King Shaka International (Durban), King Phalo (East London), George, and O.R. Tambo International (Johannesburg).

Upgrades to South Africa’s biggest airports

Starting with Cape Town International, the priority is to reconfigure the domestic terminal in an effort to meet growing capacity demands.

This entails a larger meet-and-greet area for arrivals, an expansion of the baggage terminal area with a new carousel, a bigger domestic departures lounge, improved retail spaces and toilets, and three new boarding gates with fixed bridges.

This is in addition to the previously announced R3.9-billion runway realignment project, which will introduce a new 3,500-metre runway that can accommodate larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380.

Next, Chief Dawid Stuurman International and George Airport are both seeing an overhaul to their terminals to expand their capacity.

George will be the first to receive this expansion, as its passenger throughput had already exceeded its intended design capacity before the Covid-19 outbreak, while Dawid Stuurman’s upgrades are expected to follow in 2025.

King Shaka International Airport, Durban

King Shaka International’s main focus is the construction of a new hotel, as the airport itself is still relatively fresh and is located further away from its associated metro than the other airports on the list. It will also receive an expansion to its terminal at a later date.

East London’s King Phalo Airport, meanwhile, is benefitting from an upgrade to its departures lounge with additional retail outlets, a relocation of its security checkpoint, refurbished ablution facilities, and new offices and lounges for the first floor.

Finally, O.R Tambo International is getting a new cargo terminal called Mid-field Cargo, which is a priority for ACSA given the demands of the airport’s Mid-field passenger terminal.

Other changes to the site include an extension of the bussing gates with six new gates for Terminal A, and improved departure lounges with augments to the retail and seating areas.

A second phase of expansions will then see a new mezzanine level added to the terminal to better optimize seating arrangements.

The new investments in these airports are part of an ongoing process to improve South Africa’s air transport system in an effort to advance economic growth and development, said Chikunga.

In the 2022/2023 financial year, R128 million was spent by the Air Traffic and Navigation Services to support its air traffic management infrastructure, and another R155 million will be required over the next year to future-fit the service to ensure it can continue its operations, said the Transport Minister.

Another innovation in the aviation sector is the introduction of the eAirwaybill, which incorporates real-time tracking systems, data analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence to streamline operations regarding air cargo shipments.

Chikunga claimed that this push for digitalization will lead to cost-savings and a better travel experience, but also noted that there is a risk involved with regard to cyber-security.

“While we also embrace innovation, we are equally mindful of cyber threats. Cybersecurity is essential for maintaining the aviation system’s integrity, safety, and resilience,” she said.

“We are collaborating more to mitigate risks and enhance cybersecurity across the sector effectively.”

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