UPDATE: Self-service and passenger experience central to Cape Town International's R7bn futuristic upgrade

2019-05-14 07:29 - Selene Brophy
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Future upgrades at Cape Town International Airport will see a R7-billion investment, over five years, including a refurbished domestic terminal and expanded international terminal.   

Servicing between 35k to 40k passengers a day as Africa's Best Airport in the 2019 Skytrax World Airports Awards - it has received this award for the fourth year running. Having exceeded the 10-million passengers a year mark and growing its international passengers by almost 10% in 2018, the airport needs the upgrade in order to maintain its phenomenal growth and deliver a quality passenger experience.

READ: Cape Town International sees 9.6% growth in international travellers as e-gate pilot widely anticipated 

Cape Town International General Manager Deon Cloete, speaking to Traveller24 after recently attending the 2019 World Airports Expo in Heathrow, London says building around what your passenger wants has become crucial, as has the art of design for Airports of the Future.

Key industry trends have placed the focus firmly on the passenger, he says.

Highlighting New Istanbul Airport as an example of one the biggest developments in airport history - which literally took “barren land and quarries and turned it into a fantastic airport”, Cloete states communication throughout the development journey of Cape Town International will be vital. 

“Keeping your passengers and staff all tuned in and aware of what's going to happen, together with situational awareness is important, as will be managing expectations during the construction phase.”

He sees the task of allowing passengers to transition, without battling to understand what the next process is, as paramount during the roll-out.

“Terminals need to be designed in an uncluttered manner, they must have clear line of site - so that passengers can easily find their way - even if it is their first visit to the airport or as a first-time traveller.

Technology will undoubtedly play a big role in the new terminals at this future-focused Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) airport, which will ascribe IATA’s Fast Travel Programme.

READ: New ultra-modern airport terminal in Ghana: An African airport with world-class standards

Passenger experience and Airports of the future

“Technology creates predictability. Modern passenger wants to be in charge and to be in charge they need to know what’s going to happen. That predictability removes a lot of anxiety, creates calmness and adds to the passenger experience.”

"There are high levels of expectations, especially where service levels sometimes get tested, this refers to security processing, home affairs and immigration counters, so we’re looking to make these areas far more effective and efficient,” says Cloete.

The refurbishment of old infrastructure over the next year, including Common Use, Self-service Kiosks (CUSK) and Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) that have become outdated, will see passengers taking charge of everything from printing their own boarding passes to bag tags and bag drops for “seamless, quicker processing”.

Acsa expects to improve the current ratio of 80% Check-in agents to 20% CUSK counters. 

The upgraded tech will also allow for fluid integration of airlines across the Acsa terminals, for “efficient and optimal use of its infrastructure”, allowing more utilisation of self-service.

Timelines remain broad but the discussion are well underway, says Cloete, with Cape Town International also running a successful e-gates pilot. The necessary equipment for the roll-out at Cape Town international counters have been confirmed, he says.

"It gives better control and better passenger experience, and we are working with the IT teams to get the interface setup and will communicate when it will be deployed." 

READ: Growing Kruger connectivity the newest rung in SA’s route development, as 66% of Africa’s underserved markets open for business

Trusted travellers and privacy

Fast and efficient processing also sees more dwell time in the airport, which for the GM could mean “getting more capacity out of the airport terminal and capitalising on having the passenger in the space so as to attract them to a broader retail portfolio”. But it ultimately it “creates additional value and adds to the overall experience of the traveller”.   

"Modern airports not only allow passengers to communicate but they also target push messaging through to the passenger to add further value", which Cloete says is nowhere near being utilised effectively in South Africa as yet.

Acsa will look to employ similar systems as in the US, where trusted travellers are pre-qualified and vetted through fast-track facilities.

"This means you really try to understand who is using your terminal – to put all of these resources into the focus of your passenger in relation to individualisation and to understand the profile of the passenger," says Cloete.

Admittedly, it raises certain security concerns related to data sharing.

Cloete highlights that as a 25-year-old company, Acsa has built solid relationships with its airline partners. Yet historically the amount of info passengers share with airports is quite limited. Passengers who want ease of processing and to be fast tracked will need to opt-in.

“They would need to subscribe and part with certain information under controlled, regulated circumstances but in order to secure the benefits,” he says.

“This means we need to encourage passengers to pre-qualify and pre-credit themselves. Understanding the passenger better in return means certain benefits and value offers for the traveller."

READ: 'One bag can cause big jams' – OR Tambo to continue irregular baggage rules for June/July peak season travelling 

So how does Acsa know they’re getting the art of terminal design right?

The airport would look at innovative ways to ensure it is in fact placing the passenger at the centre of the experience. Cloete says this could mean utilising the best practice of reaching out to frequent flyers, "engaging the top 50 travellers of an airline for an example".

"These would be known passengers through our airline associations and are very often first opinion makers who can give you a good sense as to what they think is workable and validate certain proposition that you want to put forward," he explains.

“We have to commit to designs, layouts and equipment that is futuristic. When we now build a departure terminal, or a security or immigration processing point we can’t do it like we’ve always done it. We already now plan and install self-service facilities.

"There is a big push in the industry to move over to self-service. It makes business sense but it is also what the passenger is preferring.

"From that perspective the ability to be able to engage a regular travel and for the traveller to be confident that their data won’t be compromised is critical," states Cloete.

The airport has several key infrastructure projects planned including

• The refurbishment of the domestic arrivals terminal

• The expansion of the international terminal

• A new realigned runway worth R3,93 billion which will achieve the runway realignment that will in the future allow for the expansion of the terminals

• The new runway will allow the airport to increase its per hour landing and departures from 30 to 45 aircraft movements

• It will allow the airport to handle the new generation large aircraft such as the Boeing 747-800 or the A380 aircrafts. 

Cape Town International airport terminal refurb

The planned expansion and development. (Supplied)  

Cape Town International airport terminal refurbish

A new realigned runway worth R3,93 billion. (Supplied) 


An expanded International Terminal will begin construction in the later part of 2019. (Supplied)  

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