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Rebuilding passenger confidence will be a key priority for the aviation industry moving forward, says the man at the helm of Africa’s leading airport.

“There’s a new reality of air travel,” Deon Cloete, General Manager of Cape Town International, tells Invest Cape Town.

“Our task over the coming weeks and months will be to instil confidence in the travelling public. As a first step, the team at Cape Town International has developed a set of procedures in close consultation with industry, particularly with the airlines, our regulator, all the critical service providers and ramp handlers, so that we have a seamless and a fully integrated end-to-end process that is safe and secure.”

Deon Cloete, CTIA General Manager

Since 15 June, Cape Town International had 90 aircraft movements a day for scheduled domestic services on the Golden Triangle between Cape Town, OR Tambo in Johannesburg and King Shaka International in Durban. Flights for business travel only operate from 6am to 6pm. Daily aircraft movements include cargo flights, repatriation charters and general aviation.

New bio-security protocols include the validation of flight documentation upon entry, mandatory Port Health screening and temperature checks, hand sanitising and adherence to social distancing. Wearing of masks is compulsory.

“At the check-in counters, perspex screens have been fitted and only alternate counters are used,” said Cloete. “Passengers are also encouraged to check in online at home, but self-service kiosks – which are regularly disinfected – are available. Passengers should also be assured that luggage trolleys are regularly sanitised.”

At security, traditionally a high physical touch point, additional precautions have been put in place. Passengers must scan their own boarding passes, all loose items must be placed in hand luggage and passengers setting off the metal detectors will be asked to re-enter the queue.

“We also have what we call ‘Covid monitors’, it’s like a Covid police,” said Cloete. “They literally make sure that everyone follows the rules and that we don’t breach the safety integrity of the system.”

Travellers are encouraged to arrive at airport at least two hours in advance to familiarise themselves with the new safety procedures.

“It’s a slightly longer process, but we think that it’s in the best interest of all concerned, and it is certainly aligned to what is happening elsewhere in the industry at a global level,” said Cloete.

A lot of what we’ve done at Cape Town International is reliant on the input from the likes of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), as well as the civil aviation authority, our regulator responsible for all oversight.

Cloete said that the airport as a whole is ready to open up completely.

“We are very confident that we are ready. We have handled our first domestic flights and we’ve been doing so successfully,” he said.

“We have also been continuing the international repatriation flights, which are provided for in the regulations, and we are obviously looking forward to when the regulations will allow us to open for international flights. Essentially, the airport as a whole is ready.”

About the multibillion rand pre-Covid airport expansion project, set to include a new runway and refurbished terminals, Cloete said: “The project hasn’t grind to a complete halt, but it is very important that we do come to grips with the realities of Covid-19 and what it means for the future of travel, e.g. the demand, the affordability and the sustainability of these projects.”

“We are reviewing the entire project, and again, we can’t do it on our own, we need to do it with all our partners and stakeholders to ensure that we take an informed decision. Obviously, these processes have gone a long way in terms of approvals and the environmental impact assessments, and that will all still stand. It’s a question now of making sure that we review the projects and do the due diligence within the context of Covid. We, however, remain committed. We are not here for the short-term, we remain here as a long-term partner.”

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