There was chaos at Cape Town International Airport on Sunday, with two Johannesburg-bound SAA flights failing to load passengers’ luggage and a Delta Airlines international flight being delayed for about 24 hours.

When asked, however, why the domestic departures terminal was full to overflowing during the morning, Airports Company of SA (Acsa) officials in the city told the Cape Times there were no delays.

Delta Airlines passenger Lindsay Shuttleworth said passengers had been waiting for their New York-bound flight since 6pm on Saturday.

Shuttleworth said what made the situation worse was that there was no one at the Delta Airlines information desk to assist passengers.

Earlier this month, Delta Airlines announced the start of its direct service from Cape Town International Airport to New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, via Dakar. Delta is the only US carrier to serve South Africa.

Speaking from London, Delta Airlines spokesperson Olivia Cullis said flight DL 129 from Cape Town to New York, via Dakar, had been cancelled because of a technical problem.

“It was cancelled for operational reasons. These things do come up every now and again.

“As you know, safety and security are our number one priority. It’s quite unfortunate it came to this.

“We regret any inconvenience caused to passengers.”

Delta did not offer passengers any overnight hotel accommodation and the flight left at midday on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on her arrival in Johannesburg, Independent Newspapers journalist Angela Quintal learnt that all her luggage – which should have been on board an SAA flight – had been left in Cape Town.

“The effects are quite disastrous because you have people who have to connect to international flights. And there are only three SAA staff members dealing with two planes full of people,” a clearly frustrated Quintal said.

“This (luggage delay) may be linked to the chaos (at Cape Town International) earlier. People just didn’t know where to go. It’s just chaos, chaos, chaos.”

With the increase in passenger numbers because of the school holidays, the lack of communication by airport staff only made matters worse.

“No one knew where to go. There was a lack of information,” Quintal said.

SAA spokesperson Robyn Chalmers said a technical problem with the baggage belts in Cape Town led to luggage for flights SA324 and SA326 being left behind. The luggage was placed on the next available flight to Johannesburg.

“SAA would like to apologise to the affected passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

Acsa spokesperson Deidre Hendricks said on Sunday afternoon that the belts had been repaired.

AUTHOR: Babalo Ndenze
DATED: 30th June 2008