Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is readying itself for a busy festive season with some 3.5m passengers expected to be in transit for December and January - and authorities are determined to ensure passenger safety.
OR Tambo International Airport announced earlier in December it would be increasing the frequency of random stop-and-searches of any permit holders working airside and landside - with unannounced security checks around aircraft during loading and unloading has seen 10 people arrested so far.
'Attempts to smuggle items foiled'
South Africa's busiest airport anticipates the Friday before Christmas and the first Friday in January to have high passenger volumes - passengers are also being reminded of the digital way-finding and information devices at strategic points in the terminal buildings. Look for the InfoGate sign on the large touch-screen devices which provide comprehensive information about airport facilities as well as flight information.
Betty Maloka, Senior Manager: Corporate Affairs at the airport says, “This is Africa’s largest airport and South Africa’s premier point of entry. We are very much aware of our responsibility to provide not only a safe environment but also to enhance South Africa’s reputation among visitors.”
READ: Last-minute flights: Here's what you can expect to pay if you're willing to fly on Christmas and New Years
Together with SAPS, security has been ramped up across the airport, including additional staff to monitor several hundred CCTV cameras in real time.
Successes recorded during the random searches so far include:
- Apprehension of 10 security officers from a contracted security company in possession of stolen items including alcohol and juices. Their staff permits were confiscated, the individuals were suspended and have now been dismissed;
- Arrests of 10 people for contravening the Civil Aviation Act and for trespassing;
- Alcohol wrapped in blankets and thrown over a fence was handed to the SAPS for further investigation;
- Damaged fencing was identified in an area where alcohol wrapped in blankets was found during perimeter inspections and has been repaired;
- Officers of a licensed security contractor apprehended two foreign nationals in toilets who were found with fraudulent passports. They were handed over to SAPS and a case opened;
- Officers of a licensed security contractor apprehended a foreign national trying to enter South Africa illegally. He was arrested and handed to the SAPS;
- Workers for two contractors were found removing items from an airside rubbish dump, arrested and handed to the SAPS; and
- A security officer employed by an international airline was found with 47 bottles of liquor miniatures on his person when stopped and searched. He was arrested and has appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrates Court.
No baggage breakage delays?
"Staff responsible for key airport systems such as baggage handling have also completed maintenance operations and replaced parts where necessary. Suppliers and service providers for these systems also have staff on standby during the holiday season," says Maloka.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we are well placed to mitigate security risks and maintain technical, engineering and IT systems to prevent unnecessary delays."
GETTING YOUR JOURNEY OFF TO THE BEST START
OR Tambo International Airport recommends that travellers take some simple but important steps to ensure that their trip gets off to the best possible start:
- Get to the airport and check in early. High numbers of passengers mean there will be queues at peak times of the day.
- If it’s been a while since you were at the airport, remember that counters and other facilities may have moved. Give yourself time to make sure you can check in and relax.
- Follow your airlines rules about not putting any valuables such as electronics, jewellery and expensive perfume in your checked-in bags.
- Consider using plastic wrapping or purchasing a baggage sleeve for your bags.
- Remember that certain items are prohibited in both checked and carry-on bags
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