South Africa’s largest airport, OR Tambo International, would use the Confederations Cup as a dry-run for next year’s FIFA World Cup, when some 400 000 visitors were expected, general manager Chris Hlekane said on Wednesday.

He said the about 5 000 visitors were expected to make use of OR Tambo during the Confederations Cup, which starts on Sunday.

Although the number expected visitors for the Confederations Cup was far less than the numbers for 2010, Hlekane said that it would give the airport the opportunity to test its protocol and procedures.

“We don’t believe that we will have a challenge, and our view towards the Confederations Cup is really to test the policies and procedures that we have put in place, the systems in terms of how we operate our airport,” Hlekane said at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

If bottlenecks or challenges were identified during the hosting of the Confederations Cup, Hlekane said that the airport would still have enough time to sort these out before the 2010 World Cup.

He estimated that the Indian Premier League had deposited about 15 000 visitors to South Africa’s doorstep, while the British and Irish Lions’ tour, which was running concurrently with the Confederations Cup, was likely to attract between 50 000 and 60 000 visitors. This was likely to test the airport’s capacity capabilities.

Meanwhile, the OR Tambo airport has downwardly revised its arrival expectations for the 2010 full year. Hlekane said that passenger numbers had dropped by about 14%.

Hlekane stated that it was previously projected that around 24-milllion visitors would come through the airport by 2010, however, with the current economic crisis, that figure was likely to only be reached two years down the line. He added that this would have an implication on the use of infrastructure at the airport.

EXPANSION DELAYS

OR Tambo currently had capacity for around 25-million visitors a year, and Hlekane estimated that airport was likely to see around 19-million visitors during 2009, with the figure rising to 21-million next year. This meant that the airport currently had extra capacity, which in turn meant that previously planned expansions to the airport had to be put on the backburner until further notice.

“Given that there is currently no need for it, expansion projects would have to be delayed to a time probably around 2016, when we will require additional capacity. However, projects that have already begun will not be affected, and we appreciate the fact that we will be operating with spare capacity.”

Hlekane estimated that at the end of June 2008, the airport recorded nearly R300-billion worth of cargo imports and exports for that year, while it contributed around R100-billion to the South African gross domestic product.

Hlekane stated that he was unsure how these figures would be affected by the severe drop in passenger and cargo travel.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Esmarie Swanepoel
DATED: 10th June 2009