There is enormous potential for the aviation sector across the African Continent, with South Africa’s developed infrastructure offering an exciting future.
Of course whilst it is a terrific time to be in this burgeoning sector, managing growth and planning for the future are huge responsibilities. Within South Africa, no company has a bigger task with these twin challenges than the Airports Company of South Africa Limited (ACSA).
Headquartered in the Maples Office Park, Bedfordview, Ekurhuleni, ACSA oversees operations at 9 of the nation’s leading airports.
ACSA came into being back in 1993, following a reorganisation of South Africa’s aerospace industry. Prior to then, all of the country’s airports were owned and operated by the state. The state was initially the only shareholder, but the first shares were transferred in 1998 when 20 per cent of the shares were bought by Aeroporti di Roma which was sold again in 2005 at double the original amount paid.
Today ACSA is responsible for the following airports: O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, Bram Fischer International Airport, Upington Airport, Port Elizabeth Airport, East London Airport, George Airport and Kimberley Airport.
Additionally ACSA oversees operations at São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport in Brazil and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – Mumbai, India ( as part of a consortium with Bidvest and Airports Authority of India).
In the run-up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup, ACSA faced enormous pressure, ensuring that the infrastructure was in place to cope with the huge influx of international visitors to South Africa.
The company website explains its role: “ACSA has just completed its most ambitious infrastructure capacity development and improvement programme ever, prepared and brilliantly delivered against the world’s and our country’s expectations for a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“An important component of this colossal task was to ensure that there was a smooth and hassle-free transfer to new infrastructure, together with its immediate and effective operation. This, in world airport terms, is undoubtedly the task that has most challenged airports around the world.
“In a country that is troubled by chronic unemployment, ACSA is pleased to be contributing to job creation in South Africa, achieved through infrastructure investment and the partnerships that we are developing with the private sector. As recognised by global consulting firm Mott-MacDonald, the investment by ACSA in infrastructure development has been appropriate, leading to significant socio-economic benefits. It is estimated that the three major international airports sustain about 300 000 jobs (direct and indirect) and that planned future developments, as a result of passenger and cargo growth, will result in the creation of some 150 000 new jobs over the next 10 years, provided the envisaged infrastructure development plans are realised.
“ACSA was formed to own and operate the nine principal South African airports, including the three main international gateways of O.R. Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports. As well as providing world class, secure infrastructure for airlines to transport people and goods, ACSA extends its responsibilities to include the promotion of tourism, the facilitation of economic growth and job creation, and protection of the environment.
Of course technology has radically changed the way airports and passengers interact and conduct business and ACSA has embraced these changes whole-heartedly.
With Smart phones enjoying unprecedented popularity in South Africa, this June ACSA launched a free app that will assist passengers to not only easily navigate any of its 9 airports – but also make all their travel arrangements from the comfort of their phones.
The company, which handles close to 35 million passengers a year, stated that the introduction of the Airports App is part of its strategy to enhance service offerings.
In addition to expediting airline and parking reservations, the app provides passengers with tools to find shops and restaurants, airline, travel and traffic information, weather reports and customer care details.
It will also assist passengers to plan their alternative transport and passengers travelling to Gauteng offering the opportunity to synchronise with the Gautrain timetable.
The app is initially available for download on Android, Apple iOS and Blackberry devices, with the exception of the Q and Z series.
Speaking at the launch, Tebogo Mekgoe, chief operating officer of Airports Company South Africa, explains the app forms part of first phase of the roll out to introduce innovative measures to improve travel efficiency at all its airports.
“We believe that the Airports App enables our business to take advantage of emerging technologies on smart platforms to offer travellers a virtual airport service, reliably and seamlessly. Statistics show that 79 per cent of our travellers want more self-service options; it is an effective way of using technology to respond to passenger demands.”
“We are providing a tool that is simple and intuitive to ensure that travellers gain the advantage of accessing information anytime, anywhere. The growth of personal mobile technology has ushered in a new era of passenger-centric service, offering streamlined experience through a user-friendly interface,” Mekgoe added.
Of course technology has many uses and at the time of writing, it is helping South Africa travellers to detect possible symptoms of the Ebola virus which is sweeping the Continent.
ACSA has introduced new thermal scanning machines which it says can detect if passengers have high fevers.
ACSA is working with the health department and the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure South African airports are protected from the Ebola virus, with Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, a spokesperson for the organisation stating that South Africa’s various airports have implemented various strategies to protect travellers.
“The people and custodians who managed that are the Department of Health and Safety and they would be best placed to speak about the thermal scanners. At OR Tambo we have thermal scanners that are managed by Port Health which is a subsidiary of the Department of Health.”
ACSA has overseen enormous changes in the South African aerospace industry over the past 21 years and is gearing up to support its exciting growth potential for many years to come:
“A large international airport should be thought of as a living entity. Although it is a collection of inanimate objects such as runways, hangars, terminal buildings, car parks, roads and a host of physical structures to support the activities of an airport, in reality it is an organism that pulses with life, just like a city.
An airport is not only for air travellers; O.R. Tambo International, for instance, is host to about 20 000 people who go to work there every day to provide the multiple services that tend to be taken for granted when visiting an airport. An airport is not just for flying: it is the heart of a network of transport arteries for cars, trucks, buses taxis and trains. Travellers are often accompanied by ‘meeters and greeters’, adding to the community that goes to an airport to eat, to drink, to browse in the shops, refresh and relax, and, of course, to fly!” the website adds.