Cape Town International Airport: The future has landed

For the international tourist, the City of Cape Town is always a tremendous draw, attracting tourists like moths to a light bulb. Because of its popularity, the city’s airport has undergone enormous changes as its business activities continue to climb.

Of course Cape Town’s growth is not just all about tourism, with business travel playing an essential role in an ever-growing and developing city. Under the state-run Airports Company of South Africa, Cape Town International Airport has consequently become Africa’s third largest airport. It is also Africa’s premier tourist and VIP destination and has established a reputation as Africa’s premier international airport, consistently performing among the best in the world for service in its category.

Along the way, the airport has won a number of accolades, underlining its high quality service and efficient operations. Most recently Cape Town International Airport was awarded Best Airport in Africa by Airports Council International in its global Airport Service Quality survey for 2011/2012. This award is based on the passengers’ overall satisfaction with CTIA.

The airport also received two awards from SKYTRAX World Awards for Best Airport in Africa and Best Airport in Africa for Staff Service Excellence at an awards ceremony which was held in April 2012. In 2011, CTIA won two Airport Council International (ACI) Airport Service Quality (ASQ) global awards for the Best Airport in Africa and Best Improved in Africa. The airport also won the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2011 for Best Airport in Africa for Staff Service Excellence. These accolades are a testament to the continued commitment and hard work from airport staff.

Of course to win such accolades, takes enormous staff effort and operational excellence. The airport achieved ISO 14001:2004 accreditation in March 2011, making it the first ACSA operated airport to attain such a level.

The certification underlines the airport’s commitment to minimising the impact it has on the environment and ensures compliance to relevant legislation and a commitment to continual improvement.

Cape Town International Airport is located approximately 20 kilometres from the city centre and was originally opened in 1954 to replace Cape Town’s previous airport Wingfield Aerodrome. Initially the fledgling airport was called D.F. Malan Airport, after the incumbent South African Prime Minister, – and provided a direct flight service to the UK and a second flight to the UK via Johannesburg.

The airport is the only one in the Cape Town Metropolitan region that offers scheduled passenger services and caters for domestic flights (with a particular emphasis on Johannesburg and Durban) as well as numerous international destinations. Indeed the air route between Cape Town and Johannesburg was the world’s ninth busiest air route in 2011 with an estimated 4.5 million passengers.

With political transformation coming to South Africa in the 1990s, the new Government reformed the nation’s aerospace industry, creating Airports Company South Africa, an organisation which included the renamed Cape Town International Airport.

Of course transformation increasingly led to the return of international relations, with South Africa becoming a popular tourist destination – and Cape Town, with its eclectic mix of history, cultures, beaches and stunning scenery, became a prime venue.

Since the new century began, Cape Town International Airport has seen enormous growth, handling 6.2 million passengers in 2004/05 and rising to over 8 million by 2011/12.

Another significant landmark for the airport came with preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup (TM), in which Cape Town had a significant role to play. The airport underwent a major upgrade and was both expanded and renovated.

Central to the developments were the R1.6 billion creation of a new Central Terminal Building, linking the previously separated domestic and international terminals and delivering a general check-in area. The departures level of the Central Terminal opened in November 2009 and the following April saw the official opening of the whole building.

The new building has a split-level design, with departures located in the upper floors and arrivals in the lower floors; an elevated roadway system provides vehicular access to both departures and arrivals levels.

The general check-in area includes 120 check-in desks and 20 self-service kiosks, with passengers then going through a consolidated security screening area before carrying on to either the international terminal, with its immigration facilities – or alternatively heading in the opposite south direction, for domestic flights.

Among the features of the new terminal are 10 air bridges, whilst there is a new automated baggage handling system, capable of handling 30,000 bags per hour.

The new development also included space for a variety of retail outlets including: foreign exchange services, bookstores, clothing retailers, grocery stores, souvenir outlets and duty-free in international departures.

A range of new restaurants were also provided on the upper level of the new terminal building, above the departure level – and including what was muted at the time as the largest Spur restaurant on the African continent, at 1,080 square metres in floorspace.

With operations running smoothly, Cape Town International Airport has established a Corporate Social Responsibility programme. In April of this year it was announced that the airport donated R2,406,115 million to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

Sea Rescue includes over 900 unpaid volunteers who serve their community at 34 NSRI bases around the country. These volunteers are available 24/7/365 and will drop whatever they are doing to rush to the aid of people that they do not know and carry out their mission of ‘saving lives at sea,’ sometimes in terrible sea conditions.

Commenting on the decision to support the NSRI, Deon Cloete, Cape Town International Airport General Manager said: “The NSRI plays such an important role in our community and the work that they do across the country is absolutely critical. In the event of a major disaster, the country’s coastal airports will rely very heavily on them for support – so this partnership is very close to our hearts.

“We’ve always been very passionate about the fact that our business is not only about airports, but that we have a responsibly to give back to our communities. As an organisation we are very proud to be associated with the NSRI. We wish to thank all of the volunteers of the NSRI who give of their time so selflessly. They are often the forgotten heroes,” he added.

Cape Town International Airport’s future has been very much at the forefront in recent years. It is a future that could yet see the airport play host to 14 million travellers by 2015, consolidating its position as the second busiest airport in the country and the third busiest on the Continent.

Part of the strategy to reach such figures would be the much-muted construction of a second runway.  In 2010 news broke that the airport was to carry out around R2 billion of realigning work on the existing runway as part of the Airports Company of South Africa’s five-year plan, with longer-term plans to add a second and possibly even a third runway by 2015.