thumbnail Hello, visited a few of the airports recently to get a feel for the improvements and find out more about how the various host cities have been updated to allow for better passenger flow come 2010.

In the run up to the World Cup in South Africa next year, hundreds of thousands of fans will be welcomed to the country in new and improved airports for a 30 day celebration of football.

To make sure that South Africa can handle the influx, the country's airports have been receiving a facelift ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and with only six months until kick-off, the last few touches are being applied.

At the Wonderboom airport in Tshwane/Pretoria a few weeks back, South African Minister of Transport, Sibusiso Ndebele reflected on the importance of transport during the tournament.

"Transport is not an area in which we could afford to fail. We are delighted to note that all our host cities have an airport," he told BuaNews at a function to officially open the revamped airport.

Although not normally used as a commercial airport, Wonderboom will provide a service to fans in Tshwane during the World Cup. Some of the improvements include refurbished arrival and departure lounges as well as work on the parking facilities.

Wonderboom is not the only airport that has been undergoing improvements, with all of South Africa's major airports undergoing upgrades over the last few months. For Ndebele, the upgrades to the airports go beyond simply catering for the fans during the World Cup.

"Transport is the heartbeat of the South African economy. We must continue to intensify our work towards improving the social and economic development of our people," said Ndebele. With 19.5 billion Rand being spent on the upgrade, South Africa is going to benefit from extensive improvements to air travel and tourism post-2010.

OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg)

As the main International airport in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport is a transport hub for the country with around 16 million passengers (and growing) passing through the Johannesburg airport on a yearly basis.

The addition of the second multi-story parking bay, which will see an additional 5,200 bays in place in time for the World Cup, will go a long way in accommodating the increase in passengers. The introduction of bay detection technology has also vastly improved the ease in which passengers can find parking, with green or red lights indicating whether a bay is open or not.

The new central terminal building is well on its way to completion. Costing R2.2 billion in total, the construction has progressed to a point where parts of it are already in public use. In addition, the new atrium at international arrivals, opened in September 2008 is proving to be a popular area for people waiting for passengers.

With additional retail facilities and an enlarged and refurbished food court, opened in October 2008, there is certainly no shortage of things to do while waiting at the airport. With 75 additional check-in desks commissioned in April 2009 in the enlarged departures area and an additional six baggage carousels, soon the waiting time at OR Tambo will be much reduced as more and more passengers can be processed and put on their flights. had a word with a few flight attendants waiting to board a plane to Cape Town, and they had this to say. “The airport is looking great, and it continues to expand in anticipation of the World Cup next year. There are more shops and the generally things move faster now because of the improvements.”

Another attendant said, “This airport is one of the best in the world, and we should know because we travel to new places every day and the airport becomes like a waiting room for us, and OR Tambo certainly makes it more pleasant to wait for our next flight, and the people working here are great.”

Cape Town International Airport (Cape Town)

With over six million passengers passing through each year and with this figure set to double by 2015, Cape Town International Airport is certainly preparing itself for the growth in tourism both during and after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The refurbishments involved the construction of a new central terminal building at a cost of R1.5 million. This project went very well, and the new departure facilities in the new terminal are well placed and look good.

A taxi driver who travels to and from the airport on a constant basis told, “The new terminal and building is great. It is easier to get people to the airport on time and they are happy to find a quick process once they are there. The new parts of the airport are great and they add to the city.”

With the expected increase in passengers, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has commissioned the construction of a 4000 bay multi-level parkade at the airport. The first 400 of the bays have already been opened to the public for quite some time, and later this month the entire parkade will be open for use.       The last phase of this development, with an expected completion date of March 2010, will be the extension to the existing arrivals terminal with pedestrian connectivity to the central terminal building.

Bloemfontein Airport (Bloemfontein)

As one of South Africa's smaller airports, Bloemfontein Airport handles around 250,000 passengers per year. The runway has received attention with a R121 million upgrade to the tarmac, which should see a significant increase in usage from 2010. Work on the refurbishment and expansion of the terminal building, to the value of R46 million is progressing well and completed check-in and departure facilities are already in operation.

A new arrivals area and a public concourse has been commissioned and construction is underway. The Bloemfontein airport will be an important one during the competition as many passengers will be made up of the players, staff and fans coming to the Free State for matches in 2010.

East London Airport (East London)

Although East London is not hosting any matches during the World Cup it will act as an important gateway to Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, which will be hosting a number of matches during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and East London will definitely feel a spike in traffic during the competition.

Work has been done on the expansion and refurbishment of the terminal building and the R98 million project is progressing well. Certain areas that have been under refurbishment have already been opened up for public use. The upgrade of the airports parking facilities has also been completed.

Port Elizabeth Airport (Port Elizabeth)

As a host city for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with a number of group games as well as one of the Quarter Finals being played at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, the Eastern Cape coastal city can expect a large increase in visitors during the World Cup and after 2010 as tourism is boosted and more people visit the beautiful coastal city. To accommodate the expected increase in traffic, ACSA has already completed the refurbishment of the runway to the tune of R68 million.

La Mercy (Durban)

Work is going well on the brand new R7.5 billion airport which will eventually take on the services of the existing Durban Airport. The landscape on which the new airport is developed has undergone dramatic changes. Thanks to the new airport’s modern and impressive features, the runway, which is 3.7km in length, can accommodate some of the largest aircraft carriers such as the A380. ACSA is also ensuring that there is enough parking, with 6,500 bays under construction.

Polokwane International Airport (Polokwane)

With a new terminal, Polokwane International Airport will handle around 400 passengers per hour. The addition of new parking facilities and passenger pick-up zones have also been included in the upgrade plans of the airport which will service passengers arriving for the group matches at the Peter Mokaba stadium.

Nelspruit, with two airports - Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and the Nelspruit Airport - already caters for a large number of tourists wanting to visit the Kruger National Park. Hosting a number of opening round games at Mbombela stadium, the two airports will be in full use over the months of June and July 2010.

Peter Pedroncelli,