Cape Town - OR Tambo is not only South Africa's busiest airport, but Joburg's international airport has just been named African Airport of the Year at the recent Air Cargo Africa conference.
This is the third consecutive year OR Tambo has taken the title - and while the award recognises the airport's intent to boost cargo traffic and enhance its status as the leading airfreight hub in Africa - this as the airport has just exceeded 20 million passengers serviced in 2016 with a 3.8% increase, despite a number of operational challenges last year.
Floods severely affected certain parts of the airport in November, as did facilitation of international passengers due to new biometric requirements for first time international visitors to the airport.
The Air Cargo Africa event was held this week in Ekurhuleni and attracted a record number of 80 International Exhibiting Companies, more than 500 global industry decision makers and brought in more than 3 000 trade visitors from across more than 60 countries including from 30 African nations.
OR Tambo General Manager Bongiwe Pityi says the management and staff of the airport are humbled by the award which underscores their drive to boost cargo volumes.
“We decided two years ago that we need to focus more on the needs of our stakeholders in order for us to deliver the best infrastructure required for the total air cargo value chain.
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“We are especially pleased that our attention to providing real time support to cargo stakeholders is beginning to make meaningful contributions to the growth and sustainability of the sector which is currently under considerable economic pressure,” says Pityi.
OT Tambo was also one of three SA airports that received recognition for being the top ten most on-time airports, according to UK travel analysts OAG. Cape Town ranking 6th, OR Tambo in 8th and Durban ranked 10th in the world for punctuality.
3 Developments at OR Tambo we're keeping an eye on:
1. Infrastructure and freight to be steadily improved
Pityi says that the infrastructure to support the airfreight industry will be steadily improved.
In the short term, Airports Company South Africa will reconfigure and upgrade the access and frontage roads around the cargo buildings at OR Tambo International Airport to ease congestion and reduce in-transit times.
In the medium to long term, plans for a midfield cargo terminal are being aligned with a master development plan for the entire airport precinct. Pityi says the master development plan has a horizon of decades and careful consideration has to be given to integrating plans for infrastructure that will have a potential life span of 30 to 40 years.
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2. Changes to passenger flow at international arrival and Departures
The Department of Home Affairs has announced it will be allocating R25 million to increasing OR Tambo International Airport's capacity in the upcoming 2017/2018 financial year. Some of the things on the cards include re-looking the layout of the arriving and departing terminals. The DHA and Acsa are currently engaging with Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) to reconsider the current layout of identified areas.
Among the proposals, Gigaba says, is the idea to separate departing travellers by nationality, in the same way as in the Arrival Terminal where citizens are separated from foreign travellers. Although no changes to infrastructure has been announced, softer upgrades have already been implemented at the airport.
3. Smart security systems upgrades