Acsa in R400 000 ‘goodwill gesture’ after airport chaos

2010-07-09 16:13

The Airports Company of SA (Acsa) had set aside R400 000 as a

“gesture of goodwill” to Fifa World Cup ticket-bearing passengers who were

unable to land at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport earlier this week,

chief executive Monhla Hlahla said.

“The question of whether Acsa is legally liable for any loss

resulting from this unfortunate event is still to be determined,” said

Hlahla.

“Nevertheless, Acsa has, as a gesture of goodwill, but without

admitting any liability, decided to set aside an amount of R400 000 for

semifinal match ticket-carrying passengers who were on board the six aircraft

that were turned back.”

On Wednesday six aircraft were unable to land at the airport and

fans on board were unable to attend the match between Germany and Spain due to

what Acsa described as a series of events.

It began with the crash of the Central Airspace Management system,

run by Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), so landing slots were

allocated manually on a first-come, first-served basis, in spite of flight

schedules having been planned months in advance.

Acsa said private operators then took advantage of the situation

and took up slots not allocated to them, “thus beginning the domino

effect”.

Because the air traffic volume had been lower than expected between

5am and noon, and was going to be busier later, the airport’s management

requested prioritisation of all flights with slots carrying soccer fans and Fifa

officials due to attend the match.

Then, as traffic started picking up, the weather turned, causing 20

minute delays and a resultant increase in volume, so at 2pm airspace

restrictions were applied which meant no aircraft could depart for King Shaka

for 30 minutes.

The restrictions were lifted, but at 5pm eight private operators

who had landed at King Shaka refused to obey a directive that they fly out and

park at other airports, clogging up parking bays and making it impossible for

other aircraft to land.

Acsa estimates that about 600 passengers were affected.

Hlahla apologised for the incident and said that they realised that

no amount of money could compensate those who missed the match.

They had facilitated the movement of 32 500 aircraft at their

airports since the beginning of the tournament, and Wednesday’s incident had

dampened spirits and “stained” the efforts that went into preparations ahead of

the tournament.

How the money would be disbursed was still to be discussed with

affected airlines as they had passenger details.

Comment was not yet available from ATNS and the Civil Aviation

Authority but Comair, one of the airlines affected, was livid.

“We just feel very strongly that Acsa did not conform to all the

agreed plans and the schedule that was agreed to by all the parties. They just

went off plan and let down so many people in the process,” said Comair

spokesperson Heidi Brauer.

The company was taking legal advice on launching a class action

lawsuit for its customers after spending yesterday fielding calls and emails

from angry passengers.

Cabin crew did not know what was happening at the time, and did not

know what to tell passengers leading to frayed tempers.

A German soccer tourist on an SA Airways (SAA) flight that was

affected allegedly assaulted a cabin crew member and would face charges in court

today.

The transport department, whose regulations on slot allocations are

posted on ATNS’s website, was dismayed by the incident and had collected the

registration details of the aircraft involved as part of its

investigation.

A statement from SAA gave an indication of the knock-on effect for

them.

They had to cancel flight SA2277 from OR Tambo International

Airport to King Shaka, scheduled to leave Johannesburg at 3.30pm and arrive in

Durban at 4.40pm. This aircraft was pushed back from the parking bay in OR Tambo

at 6.15pm and at 7.39pm the flight was cancelled.

SA575 from OR Tambo to King Shaka left Johannesburg at 5.56pm but

was kept on hold in Durban airspace for almost an hour, then diverted back to

Johannesburg, arriving at 7.30pm.

This was the only SAA flight diverted back to Johannesburg. That

flight took off again at 10.43pm and landed in Durban at 11.44pm.

SA559 from OR Tambo to King Shaka was kept at its departure station

from 45 minutes before take-off at 1.55pm and finally departed at 2.40pm.

SA585 from OR Tambo to King Shaka was kept at its departure station

from 59 minutes before take-off at 9pm and finally departed at 9.59pm.

SA579 from OR Tambo to King Shaka was kept at its departure station

for an hour and 45 minutes before take-off. It was scheduled to depart at 7pm

and finally departed at 10.12pm.

At 2pm, Central Airspace Management Unit told them the following

flights were on hold at Durban airspace: SA2268, SA2282, SA3630, SA3608, SA3632,

SA612, and SA616 all from Cape Town to Durban; and SA571 from Johannesburg to

Durban.

SA620 from Cape Town to Durban was supposed to arrive at 7.15pm but

arrived at 8.50pm and SA2253 to Durban was scheduled to arrive at 4.30pm and

arrived instead at 7.10pm.

 

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