Cape Town Airport employee goes charging into new job, saves face as electric car bays blocked and unavailable

2019-11-15 04:59 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town Airport employee goes charging into new

Gavin Olivier, Katanga Duty Manager.

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Electric cars are not cheap. Ranging in price from R450k to R1.6m, depending on the model, it's quite an investment. 

But in the long term, they're pretty economical - and all-importantly they don't rely on expensive fossil fuel.

Nienke van Schaik, who lives in Hout Bay but moves between her three high-tech, eco-friendly guesthouses, swears by them.

"Electric vehicles are fantastic! Fast and fun. And good for the planet. The initial investment is high but it is so worth it!"

But being an adopter of a technology that's just catching on in South Africa has its pitfalls. We are on the scoreboard so to speak in that three of our main international airports have just launched electric charging stations at the beginning of November.

READ: SA's three main airports power up with new charging stations for electric cars

However, to Nienke's dismay, Cape Town International Airport's facilities were far from user-friendly when she popped into the airport to recharge on route to one of their properties, TheLAB in Robertson.

 Cape Town International Airport employee goes cha

(Photo: Nienke van Schaik)

"We had a meeting regarding a solar project with someone from East London and the airport was the most convenient place to meet. I wanted to top up the car, having driven from Hout Bay.

"Hout Bay to Robertson is a push in the electric car, a source of much 'range anxiety' especially on windy days. So I thought I would try the new charging points, which I had seen in the Traveller24 article on the 2nd of November," says Nienke. 

This in turn created the unfortunate storm that saw Gavin Olivier - a new guy on the job at Cape Town International Airport's parking area - go above and beyond for this hospitality operator.  

"I was dismayed to see that the concrete blocks that had been there for a few months had not been removed since the official launch of the charging points and the media coverage."

Nienke says she then phoned the main Cape Town airport number to find out why.

"They were unaware of any Electric Vehicle parking. I was then put through to someone who dealt with parking who said that I should go to the ground floor. I mentioned that I was there but there were concrete blocks. He said I should look around for someone to help me."

But there were no staff anywhere, she states. 

"I called BMW customer service and they were also not aware of either the charging stations or the free parking. The first time I called I was told that I would be called back by the person dealing with electric vehicles and the second person said my complaint would be dealt with in the next 5 days."

Nienke says she is still waiting for that call. 

"So I left the parking, using my 20 free minutes, drove a loop around the airport and eventually went to the Katanga Office on the ground floor, which was closed but there was a sign with an emergency number."

Katanga Parking Services is the company contracted by Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) to manage the public car parks at Cape Town International Airport.

Enter Gavin, a Kensington local, fresh on the job and ready to roll. 

Nienke says Gavin told her that he would be right down.

"He was amazing and single-handedly removed the concrete block. Once I was successfully charging, he said he would take it up with the post manager."

I charged for approximately 40 minutes.

"At the exit I had to speak to the parking assistant who was not aware of the free parking arrangement (and who wanted to charge me R113 for the 65 minutes I had been in the parking. Her manager did not know about it either but he was updated by someone else during our call.

"I called Gavin on leaving the airport who informed me that the staff were being informed and that all concrete blocks would be removed. 

Cape Town International Airport employee goes char

(Photo: Gavin Olivier)

Gavin told Traveller24 that as the new duty manager, he had only just started with Katanga on Monday, he wasn't entirely sure about the process either.  

"I didn't know about the electric vehicle charging stations but it was exciting helping her set up the charging of her car. I enjoy helping people.

"My ops manager Gherson Hull also assisted me. The other staff at the airport were helpful too and sent me in the right direction when I asked."

But for Gavin it was all about moving the concrete blocks so Nienke could get her Electric vehicle topped up. 

Nienke told Travller24 how he used seemingly super-human strength to move the blocks.

"I enjoy working at the airport, meeting people, assisting people. It is exciting to work here and I am always willing to learn about new cars and technology," he says.  

WATCH | The future of travel is electric, but can South Africa keep up?

Nienke say having bought the three vehicles for TheLab properties second hand, they fit their eco-conscious and innovative approach at the automated guesthouses. We harness solar energy and try to reduce our overall carbon footprint by charging the cars using only solar energy.

"One charge (about 24 KwH) costs about R45 using Eskom. Less if you use solar (in which case you pay 70 cents per KW as you would otherwise receive this back from municipality if you are a small-scale embedded generation." 

Nienke then explained that Gavin sent her some Whatsapp pics after she had left showing that the Electric Vehicle stations were now clean and cleared.   

Keep that enthusiasm going Gavin, is all we can say - because as we know, first impressions are lasting and Cape Town's international airport and its passengers clearly need more of it. 

Cape Town International Airport employee goes char

(Photo: Gavin Olivier) 

Update: Traveller24 has contacted Airports Company South Africa to find out about the process and lack of awareness of the electric vehicle charging stations at Cape Town International. 

Acsa spokesperson Deirdre Davids apologised about the inconvenience caused saying, "We regret the experience had by Nienke – but pleased that Gavin came to the rescue in the manner in which he did. He displayed the kind of commitment to customer service that we expect from all our airport staff."

"Staff have also since been informed. For good measure we will create broader awareness amongst all staff, which is something that should have happened to begin with."

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