Frequent leisure and business travelers who use the OR Tambo airport have memories of lost luggage and valuable items missing from their bags.
But, as South Africa prepares to host thousands of travelers for 2010 FIFA World Cup, Airports Company of South Africa Limited (ACSA) says its systems are ready.
“We have invested heavily on systems (including screening and processing of people),” Monhla Hlahla, Managing Director of ACSA said.
“We have reduced human interfacing with the bags at OR Tambo and King Shaka,” Hlahla added.
South Africa’s airports handle 25, 000 bags per day at its 10 airports.
Since South Africa was awarded the rights to stage the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a lot of resources have been invested on infrastructure including airports and stadiums.
Hlahla revealed that ACSA has spent R16 billion on the airports projects with the recently opened King Shaka airport costing taxpayers R6.8 billion.
From this figure, 60 percent is debt while the remainder was sourced internally.
She confessed that hosting a soccer tournament is different compared to other sporting codes. Botswana’s neighbour has in the past hosted big sporting events like the Rugby World and Cricket Cups.
“To host Rugby or Cricket is nothing compared to hosting the FIFA World Cup”, revealed Hlahla, adding that here you are dealing with a No 1 sporting game in the world.
“FIFA is complex. You sort them out first,” she added.
Apparently, to avert security headaches during the event, ACSA will only manage the tiny aviation security while the state will take over the security of the airports.
A joint committee has been established that includes intelligence community, who meet periodically to discuss airports.
“We work within the state security system because they have better muscle,” admitted Hlahla.
“Before the cameras, the state security is much stronger than ACSA,” she added.
Hlahla also revealed that they have been engaging their partners around the world to make sure their systems can communicate better.
“We want them to access our airports easily,” she said.
It is being said that the airports project will be a lasting legacy after the world cup, with infrastructure said to be better than some European countries.
The airports will be a long term investment and Hlahla said when the GDP grows, the air traffic will also grow.
“We are not Europe, we are a developing country; we need these stadiums and airports,” she added.
Botswana looks set to lose from the traffic that come through South Africa and the region as it has not been active in engaging with African airports community.
“We have a strong airports community; we discuss a lot on routes. Botswana has not been active,” Hlahla told The Sunday Standard.