Airports Company South Africa announced that terminal buildings at three international airports are now open to members of the public since Monday, 7 December 2020.
Covid-19 protocols have until now required that only passengers in possession of a ticket be given access terminal buildings. The Department of Transport notified Airports Company South Africa on Thursday 3 December that regulations had been revised to allow for general access to airport terminals.
Fundi Sithebe, Chief Operating Officer of Airports Company South Africa, says the move to open terminal buildings is part of a process of gradual easing of restrictions that the company has followed since domestic flying re-started in June.
Airports that have already opened terminal buildings for members of the public are O. R. Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.
General terminal access for regional airports: Port Elizabeth International, East London Airport, George Airport, Bram Fischer International, Kimberley Airport, and Upington International will not be opened immediately. Since the opening of air travel under lockdown Airports Company South Africa gave a guarantee that the re-opening of airports will be done in the most responsible manner, and with the priority being our passengers’ health. Due to capacity constraints at regional airports and the difficulty for people to adhere to physical social distancing when running at full capacity, the decision to open for non-travellers will be reviewed at a later stage.
“We are pleased to be able to further relax the restrictions. This will benefit passengers and their friends and families. The change in terminal access requirements also provides the opportunity for airport retailers, restaurants and other concessionaires to begin recovering from the devastation their businesses have suffered since 27 March,” says Sithebe.
“While ACSA has implemented rental relief and other steps for airport retailers and concessionaires, we believe the time is right to take further steps to support their recovery.”
The company anticipates that passenger volumes in the upcoming holiday season will be considerably greater than experienced in the months since June, particularly as more airlines will be operating domestically during this period.
“It is certainly safe to fly, but the constrained economic circumstances of many South Africans mean that domestic air travel will perhaps be about half of what it was in the 2019 holiday season.
“For international travel, the change in Level 1 regulations is most welcome and our international airports are geared to facilitate more passengers from other countries. However, we recognise that the countries that are our greatest sources of tourists are experiencing significant increases in Covid-19 infections and it may be challenging for people to travel from those countries,” says Sithebe.
She says that Airports Company South Africa appreciates that some of the airport protocols in place since June have been inconvenient but that protecting the health of everyone who uses an airport while still facilitating flights has been and remains the company’s priority.
Sithebe emphasises that opening terminal buildings to the public will be accompanied by the continued application of Covid-19 protocols.
Masks, hand sanitisation and physical distancing will be enforced in terminal buildings, including at retail, food and car hire outlets. Temperature screening and sanitisation will take place at entrances to terminals.
Ensure pre-travel planning is done – OR Tambo International
OR Tambo International Airport is geared up to facilitate significantly higher numbers of passengers compared to the past few months and is anticipating a good holiday season in spite of the later closure of schools and businesses for the year.
However, airport management is urging passengers who will be flying in the coming weeks and who likely have not travelled by air in the past 12 months to prepare themselves for end-to-end wearing of masks and other health precautions.
Spokesperson Samukelo Khambule says key measures adopted early in the lockdown period have been further eased and that the airport will more closely resemble the experience of passengers before Covid-19.
“From this week the airport has been opened to members of the public for the first time since 27 March. In addition, the lower roadway has been opened for pick-ups which will ease congestion in Parkade 2 South,” she says.
The upper roadway was reopened for drop-offs several weeks ago as was the open-air Piazza area which is for taxis and e-hailing services. Level 1 of the basement parkade closest to international arrivals has been open for some weeks while designated long-stay parking levels underneath the City Lodge remain open.
“Since restrictions began to be lifted from June, the number of passengers returning to the skies has grown gradually but steadily,” says Khambule.
From the beginning of June, O. R. Tambo International Airport has facilitated 218 708 departing domestic passengers and 2 385 arriving domestic flights.
The market for international and regional flights reopened from 20 November. The regional market has accumulated 4 587 departing passengers and 259 arriving movements. The international market has accumulated 48 598 departing passengers and 112 arriving movements since 20 November 2020.
“While we expect increased volumes of passengers and flights over December and January, the total is likely to be about half of the 2019 holiday season,” says Khambule.
“With the start of Lift and the return of some domestic carriers, we have reason to be optimistic that passenger growth will improve further in the coming months,” says Khambule.
The airport’s projections, based on slot bookings by airlines and factoring in the later start to school holidays, indicate that the peak date for departing passengers will be 18 December 2020. The peak date for passengers arriving at the airport is expected to be 21 January 2021.
Khambule urges holiday season passengers to follow the protocols around masks, physical distancing and sanitsation.
“To ensure sufficient processing time, we encourage passengers to arrive early at the airport, at least two hours before your flight for domestic travel and four hours for international travel. We should all remain acutely conscious of the increased risks whenever larger numbers of people congregate. The national Covid situation is something that should drive renewed commitment to following simple measures that protect each of us.
“We remain reluctant to adopt a heavy-handed approach to enforcement of the health protocols. We have Covid Monitors in place across the airport, but it is not possible to police every person in every queue. It is therefore essential that travellers and airport visitors continue to apply good judgment, particularly in terms of physical distancing,” says Khambule.
She urges passengers and those transporting them to the airport to verify that they are not parked in a high-tariff zone before leaving their vehicles. Tariffs are posted at entrance booms. Before a ticket is dispensed at Level 2 of Parkade 2 South, drivers will hear a voice note warning them that they are entering a high-tariff zone. Vehicles that are left unattended within the pick-up (arrivals) and drop-off (departures) zones will be clamped and the owner will have to pay a fine for parking in a non-parking area.
Khambule also reminded passengers that critical airport rules remain in place. Arrangements for guns and ammunition must be made with the airline before a passenger arrives at the security search point.
At the security search point, passengers need to self-divest which means removing belts, watches, keys, jewellery and other items in pockets. This will assist with quick processing of passengers.