Airport upgrade plan on cards

ACSA aims to double business, widen runway, build new access roads

Major upgrades are on the cards for the Port Elizabeth International Airport as it looks to double its business in the next decade. Airport Company South Africa (ACSA) plans on capitalising on business and tourism development in the Eastern Cape, and is also looking beyond the next 10 years to turn the airport into an international travel hub.

Airport manager Steven Maphalla said yesterday that while the developments were still in the planning phase, they had consulted with municipal officials, tourism authorities and business leaders in the metro.

“We had a meeting with municipal officials yesterday [Monday] and their feedback was very positive. We are in the process of engaging with tourism and business officials as well so that we can come up with comprehensive plans going forward,” Maphalla said.

The Port Elizabeth airport has a capacity of two million passengers a year, and saw 1.6 million people pass through the terminal in the 2016-17 financial year.

ACSA’s target for the next decade is to upgrade the terminal and facilities to the point where they can accommodate four million arrivals and departures a year.

The proposed plans will also make room for a lot of SMME engagements, as 40% of the tenders will offer opportunities for smaller enterprises.

In line with ACSA’s transformation strategy, the company will encourage specialist contractors to partner with SMMEs in any tenders awarded.

The upgrade and increased movement through the airport will also mean the staff complement could potentially double from the present 115 employees.

There is no estimate for what the proposed upgrades will cost ACSA.

“For these upgrades to take place we will need more land for the airport to expand.

“On the other hand, the municipality wants to reserve space in the same vicinity for future housing developments, similar to that of the former informal settlement at Airport Valley,” Maphalla said.

“So negotiations are ongoing so that we can ensure ACSA and the municipality are in sync.”

He said upgrades planned in the 25-year development could include a second floor at the existing terminal, as well as new infrastructure to allow the construction of upper and lower access roads, similar to the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The runway could also be widened to accommodate larger aircraft, meaning more international travel and bigger cargo planes.

The senior manager for regional airports’ corporate affairs, Senzeni Ndebele, said the first phase of bringing new business to all airports across South Africa would start within the next few months when they looked to secure new retail partners inside airports.

“We want to give our customers more retail options.

“We did surveys across all airports to see what our customers thought about the products we have on offer, and the response was not great,” Ndebele said.

“So one of the first steps will be to put out tenders for new retailers.”

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