Owing to the need for economic growth in South Africa, local government and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) are investing in the Ekurhuleni Municipality’s aerotropolis project, based around OR Tambo International Airport, in Ekurhuleni, which is aimed at improving public- and private-sector investment at the airport and in the surrounding areas.
ACSA says it will invest in improving infrastructure for the next few years. “We are focusing on the maintenance of existing facilities through the improvement of efficiencies, which is why government and ACSA are focusing on embarking on the aerotropolis concept that is set to ensure economic growth for the company,” says OR Tambo International Airport communication and brand manager Unathi Batyashe-Fillis.
She adds that economic growth requires new and innovative initiatives to be pursued, which will increase Ekurhuleni’s competitiveness, and attract foreign and local investment to increase exports of local goods and services.
The first phase of development, at the previous Denel location, on the eastern side of the airport, has started. It has been renamed the Aerotropolis east precinct and is intended to form part of a mixed-use aero- city. “We will ensure that certain portions of land are managed and critical services coordinated so that the aerotropolis vision is not compromised,” she says, adding that OR Tambo International Airport has the location, accessibility and connectivity to enable this. “To a large extent, the airport has been operating as an aerocity for many years.”
In the medium term, ACSA is focusing on commercial and nonaviation business initiatives, in conjunction with Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality, to improve and support aviation-linked businesses.
Batyashe-Fillis says this will be combined with the existing continuous improvement of operations and service levels.
Further, plans to expand the western precinct with nonaviation land use have been in the pipeline for some time.
“The first phase, which saw the construction of City Lodge Hotel on the southern parkade, is evidence of this expansion. Future plans include the commercialisation of underdeveloped areas between the current terminal building and the Albertina Sisulu R21 freeway,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
Proposed developments for the aerotropolis include offices, hotels, retail stores, multimodal transport facilities and conference facili- ties, as well as high-density residential developments.
Long-term plans have also been put forward to accommodate nonaviation land use to the south of a proposed midfield terminal complex. “If built, the midfield terminal will be similar to the one at Heathrow Airport, in London, and will not exit airport boundaries. The second terminal building is planned to increase efficiency by allowing passengers to disembark without the aircraft having to cross the runway,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
Trends and Technology
Being the largest and one of the busiest airports in Africa, with the traffic volume slightly less than 19-million passengers a year, OR Tambo International Airport is considering ways of improving its systems. “We are always mindful of improvements to facilities that we own and operate, and are determined to improve our customer-service levels,” she says.
ACSA believes that efficiencies will flow from improved service facilities provided for airport partners. Batyashe-Fillis says that the latest technologies, such as the use of faster and more sophisticated X-ray equipment at security checkpoints and the advances in information technology, are some of the services being offered.
She highlights that progress has been made with regard to passenger self-service technology. “OR Tambo International Airport has had self-service check-in kiosks for several years and airlines have also made great strides in creating online check-in platforms,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
OR Tambo International Airport has recently increased the number of common-use self-service machines, which are placed at strategic locations in the terminal space and at parking areas. In 2014, the airport, together with its stakeholders, will run various trials to improve efficiency.
“We are moving towards being globally comparable in terms of giving passengers self-service options that current technology allows for.
“These collaborations with our stake- holders are testament to how an airport community can collaborate and successfully improve customer experience in a mutually beneficial manner,” she says.
Owing to ACSA not investing heavily in new infrastructure for the next few years, maintaining existing facilities through improved efficiencies will be the focus for OR Tambo International Airport.
Batyashe-Fillis notes that the key drivers of “smart” economic regulation and gross domestic profit growth will determine the speed at which new infrastructure capacity is delivered. “If there is no meaningful economic growth, new capital will be deferred,” she adds.
Given the airport’s aim to remain customer centric, it claims that it will intensify the training of ACSA’s and airport stake- holders’ staff. “Collaborations with our stakeholders remain top priority to improve service to our customers,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
Meanwhile, community upliftment, social development and social cohesion are strategic imperatives that inform ACSA’s contribution to improving the quality of life of South Africa’s most vulnerable segments of society.
“Most of our projects are determined by 1 200 ACSA employees who are based at OR Tambo International Airport and who assist in identifying schools and charities in need,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
The airport’s community upliftment programmes primarily focus on assisting in early childhood development, education and environmental protection, as well as helping those who have a disability. “Partnerships are vital in the programmes in which we are involved,” she adds.
Over the past three years, OR Tambo International Airport has developed its Winter Warmer Campaign to benefit more than 3 000 community members, more than ten schools in Ekurhuleni and thousands of children who are being assisted through the provision of new school uniforms, new classrooms, counselling, new eyewear for primary-school children with eye problems, books, classroom interactive boards and stationery.
“Further, more than 10 000 wheelchairs were donated over the past decade to various charities through the ACSA Wheelchair Corporate Donation Programme,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
In 2014, ACSA will renovate a hospital unit to contribute towards early childhood development and it will also embark on a long-term partnership with the Department of Education in a yearly awards ceremony to honour outstanding and the most- improved students and educators.
About Airports Company South Africa
South Africa’s nine principal airports – OR Tambo International, in Johannes- burg; Cape Town International; King Shaka International, in Durban; Port Elizabeth International; Bram Fischer International, in Bloemfontein; and Upington International, in the Northern Cape; as well as the East London, George and Kimberley airports, are owned and operated by ACSA.
The airports are major generators of direct and indirect employment and business opportunities, providing the core development nodes. “In celebration of our twentieth birthday this year, we adopted the theme: ‘From State to state-of-the-art’, which clearly epitomises our twenty-year journey,” says Batyashe-Fillis.
At inception, the company inherited from government nine very basic airports, with minimal passenger comforts and services. “Twenty years later, we are the proud owners of a network of airports that is a shining example of what can be achieved over a relatively short time,” says Batyashe-Fillis. ACSA airports facilitate about 96% of commercial air traffic in South Africa.