OR Tambo International geared up for 4m passengers

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In a statement issued on Wednesday, OR Tambo International Airport said that it has geared up to help an anticipated four-million passengers get their holiday travels under way “stress-free and in the smoothest way possible”.

Airport GM Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana says the airport community is fully prepared for the busiest time of the year.

The airport boasts 1 400 direct employees, with a total of 38 000 people employed in and around the airport.

“We are fortunate that all our stakeholders appreciate that we work in an ecosystem where running an efficient airport relies on continuous collaboration among thousands of people,” she said, adding that “airport operations are complex”.

The airport, she explains, manages volumes, variability, variety and visibility in a live environment where precision and predictability of service is the basis of its existence.

“The regulatory demands to guarantee civil aviation safety require effective planning and synchronisation of thousands of activities every hour in the passenger’s journey from arrival on our landside, to when the aircraft takes off, lands and passengers safely leave the airport,” Pityi-Vokwana says.

She adds that the airport has prepared thoroughly, including contingency planning with the mutual support of the airport community which includes airport staff, airlines, air traffic controllers, South African Weather Services, ground handlers, contracted security staff, retailers, car rental firms, mechanical, electrical, civil infrastructure and information technology equipment maintenance contractors.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African Revenue Services Customs & Excise, Immigration Services, State Security Agency and others have also been included in the contingency planning.

Pityi-Vokwana further states that a recent aircraft crash crisis simulation exercise, overseen by the South African Civil Aviation Authority as part of the airport licensing process, thoroughly tested the abilities of airlines, air traffic control, ground handlers, airport management, emergency services, law enforcement agencies, and other role-players around Gauteng to respond quickly and effectively to any situation.

“In addition, airport staff and our safety and security partners have made tremendous strides over the past 18 months in intensifying our security operations and combating crime. We are especially appreciative of the efforts of the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority in securing convictions and lengthy sentences for some of those responsible for the armed robbery at the airport in March 2017,” she says.

The airport’s law enforcement agencies executing against the government-approved Integrated Multi-Disciplinary Plan have achieved notable successes in intercepting drug concealments over the past 12 months with 1 186 seizures of drugs with a total street value of R2.9-billion.

There were 676 arrests for all classes of crime, representing a 20% month-on-month reduction in cases reported at the airport.

“This is always a very busy time for the airport. Among the four-million passengers, most of them will be first-time flyers and [include] a substantial number of elderly people. The operational demands are therefore different at this time of the year because of the different passenger mix.”

Pityi-Vokwana further assured that “all hands [will be] on deck” at the airport during the festive season.

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