2010 World Cup progress briefings: SA Airways & Airports Company of South Africa


31 August 2009
Chairperson: Mr D Gumede ( ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and South African Airways (SAA) briefed the Committee on their plans to deal with the increased flow of passengers through the South African airports and the increased number of airline passengers during the 2010 Soccer World Cup

ACSA told the Committee that it was still finding hard to plan around the issue of fans’ movement during the 2010 World Cup. Another area of concern was the lack of co-ordination between land and air transport. However ACSA felt ready to deal with the increased number of passengers going through the country’s airports. ACSA was monitoring ticket sales. It had monthly meetings with the FIFA Local Organising Committee. It had an indication of the number of tickets already sold in the USA, and would have more information in December. This was because people would only know then which team would be playing which in what game. 

South African Airways outlined its main challenges as those relating to the issue of fuel supply, the limited number of aircrafts, and technical problems, as aircrafts were going to be fully utilised with little room for downtime.

Members of the Committee voiced their frustrations over the state of the several airports in the country, particularly the smaller airports, the baggage pilferage that was rife at OR Tambo International Airport, the poor facilities and few flights offered at Umtata (Mthatha) Airport, and the lack of space at both Durban and Cape Town International Airports. They also complained that the queues were already long, and wondered how the companies were going to handle the increased flow. One member commented that it was not correct that all went well during the British and Irish Tour and the IPL Cup, citing lack of security equipment at OR Tambo International Airport as a problem. Members also enquired whether sufficient air traffic controllers would be available, and enquired how SAA was going to handle the increased demand for aircraft and airline staff, both in flight and on the ground. Members also questioned how fans from winning and losing teams were to be separated, the risks that drunken and rowdy fans would pose to security, what measures were in place to deal with them in flight as well as on the ground. Members also asked when the ticketing would commence, and how extra flights would be provided. ACSA and SAA both admitted that there were a number of challenges, but submitted that they had been involved in extensive coordination and planning, and had plans in place to deal with incidents.

Meeting report

2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup readiness briefings
Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) briefing
Mr Bongani Maseko Operations Director, Airports Company of South Africa told the Committee that the Airports Company (ACSA) was ready for the 2010 World Cup and had used the Confederations Cup to test the systems that the company had in place, using the high attendance case scenario. The test looked at how ACSA would cope in the case where all tickets had been sold for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and showed that ACSA would definitely cope.

However, ACSA was worried about jet fuel supplies, as insufficient jet fuel supplies would lead to a disaster. ACSA was not in charge of the procurement of fuel, but it was only responsible for storing it once it had arrived at the airports. ACSA, as a crucial stakeholder in the transport arrangements of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, would communicate with Transnet and refineries to ensure that they would have sufficient supplies of jet fuel. ACSA was also considering facilitating arrangements to dock a ship at Port Elizabeth that would be stock-piled with jet fuel.

ACSA was still finding hard to plan around the issue of fans’ movement during the 2010 World Cup. This was because the draw that would determine which teams played against each other would only take place in December 2009. Another problem was the capacity of certain airports such as the airport in Mpumalanga. Only four planes could be at the Mpumalanga airport for one hour. It was determined that the company would use Air-force airports whenever the closest commercial airport had limited capacity. In addition, where there was limited space, ACSA was planning to have temporary structures that would be used to accommodate the extra flow of passengers at airports during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Another area of concern was the lack of co-ordination between land and air transport.

South African Airways (SAA) briefing
Mr Chris Smyth, Acting Chief Executive Officer, and Mr Ian Cruickshank, Project Manager 2010 Operations, South African Airways, briefed the Committee on South African Airways’ (SAA) preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Mr Cruikshank told the Committee that SAA was ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. It had an arrangement with a company called Match to provide SAA with 20 planes and crew staff. The leased- in fleet agreement with Match was concluded on 30 September 2009.

However there were some operational constraints that SAA had to deal with. There was insufficient ground handling capacity at Pilansberg, and Bloemfontein, and Polokwane airport had no equipment. There was also a great need to increase crew levels from January 2010. SAA planes were going to operate around the clock. During off-peak hours SAA was going to reposition planes, and those members of the public who were willing to fly at odd-hours could get tickets at very low rates. There were going to be “Red-eye flights” through the night.

To meet the required service levels, SAA was also going to utilise the services of retired staff.  There were also contingency plans in place to make necessary repairs quickly to planes that experienced technical problems. SAA was also going to delay the servicing of planes until after the World Cup.

To minimise travelling time, SAA told the Committee that direct flights to all the cities and provinces that games would be played at would be established.

The strategic threats to SAA’s operating strategy were listed as industrial action, and technical problems as aircrafts were going to be fully utilised, with little room for downtime.

The issue of fuel supply was a major problem, as smaller airports could not supply fuel. An example of such as airport was Pilansberg.  To deal with this SAA was investigating “splash and dash” at other airports.

Despite these challenges, SAA saw the World Cup as an opportunity to market a world-class service.

The Chairperson thanked ACSA and SAA for the presentations.

Mr G Krumbock (DA) commented that he did not really understand the graphs in the presentation about Jet Fuel supplies by ACSA. Furthermore he stated that the Members of the Committee should ideally have been given a copy of the presentation beforehand.

Mr Maseko said that he would be happy to explain anything pertaining to the presentation given. He said that he was also happy to meet with me Mr Krumbock after the meeting.

Mr L Khorai (ANC) asked how many tickets had been sold for the World Cup.

Mr Maseko said that ACSA was monitoring ticket sales. It had monthly meeting with the FIFA Local Organising Committee. Although there was an indication of tickets already sold in the USA, more information would be available in December. This was because people would only know by then which teams would be playing at specific times and places. 

Mr Smyth said that SAA had not started selling tickets to the public as yet, but had only started selling block booking and group tickets. He reiterated that the public did not know where the matches were going to be, until 4 December 2009.

Ms M Njobe (COPE) asked what plans were in place to deal with industrial action during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. South Africans were full of surprises and it would be difficult to predict this. She noted the recent industrial action by the construction workers in the infrastructure development programmes that South Africa embarked on in preparation for 2010.

Mr Krumbock said that it was important for ACSA to ensure that there were no fuel supply interruptions, as this would lead to a disaster.

Mr Maseko replied that ACSA was not responsible for the procurement of fuel, but would, through its strategies, try to ensure that there was no interruption to jet fuel supply. He reiterated that ACSA was responsible for the storage of fuel only once it had reached the airports. It received fuel through a dedicated pipeline at OR Tambo Airport and rail tanks, which were brought by Transnet. ACSA needed to work with Transnet and the refineries to ensure that there were no interruptions in the supply of fuel.

Ms Njobe said that not everyone wanted to use air transport during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and asked what arrangements had been made to accommodate people who wanted to use buses and trains to travel long distances.

Ms V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) added that there were many black entrepreneurs who had transport companies owning luxury buses. She wanted to know if these people were included in the 2010 plans.

Mr Maseko said that he was not competent to comment on this question. He could only comment on air transport.

Mr Smyth also told the Committee that SAA was not involved in land transport, but had strong relationships with other airlines such as SAA Express and Airlink.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya noted that nothing was said about the smaller airports in either the ACSA or the SAA presentations. Those airports were neglected and the services were poor. There were no trolleys at the Umtata (Mthatha) Airport. Ms Bam- Mugwanya added that it seemed that SAA was not accommodating local fans, especially rural people in its transport preparations.

Mr Maseko said that ACSA was not responsible for the Umtata Airport. All smaller ACSA airports had received upgrades, although not all of the upgrades had involved major refurbishment. The amount of money spent on upgrading an airport depended on the traffic flow through that airport. While ACSA was not responsible for Umtata, there were only two flights a day that went to Umtata. Many complaints were made that people rather had to travel to East London to catch flights. They airlines would not inject money into airports that had no traffic as the fewer people using the airport meant that the company had less money to upgrade that airport.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) said that he was worried about the Durban Airport, as it already did not have much space even though it was an international airport. Similar problems were faced with Cape Town International Airport..

Mr Maseko said Cape Town International Airport was congested because of the upgrades that were being made to the airport. He accepted that it was uncomfortable to go through the Cape Town airport, but that the situation would be relieved in November. A new airport was being built in Durban and it was going to be opened in May 2010, so the issues of congestions were going to disappear.

Mr Zulu said that parking was a nightmare at stadiums and asked what SAA and ACSA were going to do about it.

Mr Maseko said that he could not address this issue, as it was an issue of the Local Organising Committee and was also a matter for the Department of Sports.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked which stakeholders ACSA was working with to ensure that preparations for the World Cup ran smoothly.

Mr Maseko told the Committee that ACSA’s stakeholders with whom it worked regularly were Customs, Immigration Services, Port Health, Department of Agriculture and many more. All these stakeholders had their own legislative responsibilities. Other stakeholders were the airline companies, which brought people in and out of the airports. There were also fuelling companies, government security agencies and catering companies. 

Mr Krumbock said that many teams from the Middle-East had qualified for the World Cup and it seemed like more were likely to do so. He asked what had been done by SAA to ensure that there were halaal meals on flights.

Mr Smyth said that he was confident that SAA was going to be able to cope with the demand for special meals.  It already offered halaal meals, kosher meals and vegetarian meals on flights, and also diabetic meals. A person simply had to make a request for a special meal when booking the ticket.

Mr Krumbock said that he was not convinced by what ACSA had said, as there was no communication between the different sections in at the airport. Mr Krumbock said that there was no co-ordination at airports between the people issuing the tickets and the people at the access gates, so people had sometimes been told that their boarding passes were invalid. He asked what SAA and ACSA were doing to deal with that.

Mr Smyth told the Committee that this was rare. However, one announcement was made in all business lounges and there were flight detail screens. Everyone was urged to check those boards. Making one announcement was in line with the international norms.

Mr Krumbock also said that the issue of over-booking of tickets by SAA was a problem. There were incidents where he and other passengers had been off-loaded from a plane because of over bookings. He thus wanted to know how SAA was going to deal with that during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Mr Smyth said that the circumstances were probably due to over-booking, and he did not see that as an issue, as over-booking was regularly done for flights that had a no show factor. However he did not see that happening during the 2010 World Cup.

Ms Zikalala said that she was not happy with the length of time that people were required to stand in queues at airports, and commented that the lines were very long. She asked how SAA going to could handle the extra numbers during 2010 if they could not deal well with the situation at present.

Mr Smyth said that SAA was going to be assisted by Match with about 20 planes for the Soccer World Cup. However no SAA staff member would work beyond the prescribed working hours. There were regulations on the number of hours that pilots and cabin crew members could work.

Mr Krumbock expressed his view that it was not true to say that everything went well during the British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa. The situation at Cape Town International Airport was catastrophic. He had to wait an hour to get a boarding pass, and there were not enough X-Ray machines and human resources to deal with the number of passengers. He enquired how ACSA would be dealing with these issues.

Mr Smyth said that in general the British and Irish Lions tour and the IPL went well. O R Tambo International Airport processed 20 million people a year and about 1.7 million a month. The World Cup would, however, double those figures over two months and it was going too difficult to deal with the extra numbers. Some airlines found it difficult to readjust, as there were no extra pilots and cabin crew available. However, he referred to the deal already mentioned, with Match, in terms of which extra personnel and aircraft would be provided.

Ms Maseko said that he did not want to give the Committee an impression that the World Cup was going to be easy for ACSA. The capacity of the airports was going to be under severe pressure. The presentation by SAA clearly showed that wide body aircrafts were going to run on domestic routes. On certain days 20 000 people would go through OR Tambo International Airport. The challenge was seeing that the operators had enough resources to deal with bottlenecks.

He said that ACSA was directly responsible for security and would ensure that all security points were adequately staffed and there were enough security tools. The infrastructure was sufficient at larger airports. 

Mr Krumbock said that air traffic controllers (ATCs) were only allowed to handle a certain number of flights per hour. There were going to be many extra flights during 2010 and he pointed out that this would be a challenge, since these skills were not readily available.

Mr Smyth told the Committee that he had been discussing this matter with Mr Patrick Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer of Air Traffic Navigation Services, which dealt with air traffic control. It did indeed take a long time to find air traffic controllers, and they must be suited to the profession by having certain skills and a certain personality. It was an extremely stressful job. ATNS was going to use military air traffic controllers during the 2010 Soccer World Cup for the extra capacity needed.

Ms Zikalala asked what ACSA stood for and what the difference between ACSA and SAA was.

Mr Maseko said that many people seemed to assume that SAA and ACSA had the same roles. The Airports Company Act formed ACSA in 1993. Their role was to manage nine previously State Owned Airports. It was a State Owned Enterprise, reporting directly to the Department of Transport. ACSA was responsible for the Durban, Cape Town, OR Tambo Airport, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Upington, George, Port Elizabeth and East London. On the other hand, SAA reported to the Department of Public Enterprises.

Mr Smyth said that SAA was a passenger and cargo airline its hub was at OR Tambo International Airport. They had no control over what was happening at the airport, and its responsibilities were limited to selling tickets, checking customers in, the business lounges and the boarding of aircraft, and handling of baggage through third parties.

Ms Zikalala said that the people at the airports were not service oriented, and asked how SAA and ACSA were going to ensure that those people were trained.

Ms Bam- Mugwanya said that the issue of training could not be ignored, as it was very important for the two commercial bodies to deal with the matter.

Mr Maseko said that it was important for the companies to ensure that their customer services were good, as some people were going to be excited, and some disappointed after watching a soccer game.  Even the restaurant owners had to focus on customer service, as they were also a part of the South African experience. In the airline industry, it could be expected that something would go wrong, and the main challenge was how to rectify an issue or situation quickly and efficiently. Flight Crews would focus on treating everyone with principles of ubuntu and respect.  

Mr Smyth added that SAA had the best training in the world when it came to crew members and staff. This was evident in the fact that many other foreign companies were poaching SAA-trained staff.

Ms Njobe said that she hoped that women were given opportunities in the two companies and that they were not discriminated against.

Mr Smyth replied that there were many women in SAA and SAA was proud of its gender composition. The airline would not survive without women. He was very comfortable when he saw a female pilot, commenting that pilots were judged on how they landed the aircraft, and many of the women were performing much better in this area.

Mr Khorai said that he used the Bloemfontein airport on a regular basis and found the infrastructure conditions appalling, as there were no public phones or Automated Teller Machines at the airport, neither was there an SAPS office.

Mr Maseko said that he would accept the criticism; he will discuss the issues with the stakeholders.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya said that there were many criminal elements at airports. People were losing items from their luggage and wanted to know what SAA was doing to deal with that issue.

Mr Smyth said that it was very difficult to answer the question about pilferage at airports. Many people based their perceptions about the matter merely on their own personal experience. SAA kept detailed statistics about the amount of pilferage at airports. These statistics were independently obtained. Mr Maseko added that the problem was at OR Tambo International Airport. Two years ago the ACSA was involved in legal action with a particular bag handling company, because the baggage pilferage situation was not getting better and was having an effect on the brand of South Africa. ACSA had subsequently successfully ended the contract with this company, and ever since that it had had minimal pilferage incidents. ACSA was able to “fire” a baggage handling company if the pilferage levels were high. ACSA’s performance targets were to reduce pilferage by a further 50%.

Mr Krumbock asked Mr Maseko if the picture forming part of his presentation had anything to do with the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Mr Maseko said that there was no particular reason behind the picture.

Mr Krumbock told SAA and ACSA that most of the people who would be coming to the 2010 Soccer World Cup were high-spirited people, who were coming to South Africa to have a good time, and it was likely that the companies would be faced with drunken and unruly passengers. He therefore asked if there would be extra security measures in place to deal with those people.

Mr Smyth said SAA staff members were trained to check whether passengers were drunk before they got onto the plane. The airline also had soft cuffs to tie down people who misbehaved on board. This would not be a new or unique matter related only to the World Cup, as the airline regularly had to deal with drunken or unruly passengers.

Mr Maseko told the Committee that ACSA was concerned about the issue of separating rival fans. It would be unfortunate to allow winning and losing teams’ fans on the same flight, and this issue had been raised with both the airlines and the police.

A Member of the Committee asked how SAA and ACSA were dealing with the issue of the H1N1 virus. He did not see any signs of work being done to prevent the spread of the virus at airports.

Mr Maseko said that one of the stakeholders at the airport was the Department of Health. The Department was responsible for monitoring the migration of such diseases.  He did not believe that the virus was threatening the population to the extent that the company had to introduce extra measures beyond those that had been introduced already.

Mr Smyth added that the H1N1 was considered a fully blown epidemic. It had spread beyond the control of SAA, and was not limited to the people taking flights.

The Chairperson asked if there were additional security measures at airports to deal with unexpected events.

Mr Maseko told the Committee that the police and the army had a security plan for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, including plans around flights and airports. Different plans applied to different scenarios.

Mr Zulu said that if Umtata Airport could be extended, maybe there could be flights from Umtata to Cape Town.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya said that there was a lot of demand in the area, and there were many people also wanting to fly directly from Umtata to Johannesburg, who did not do so at present because of the quality of the services and the problem of straying cattle.

Mr Smyth said that he was aware of the fact that the Eastern Cape was one of the country’s biggest provinces. He reiterated that ACSA did not own Umtata airport, and none of the airlines flying there were owned by SAA. Airlink, an independent company, was the company who should be contacted.

The meeting was adjourned


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