Airport veteran back from retirement for big move

2010-05-01 00:00

DURBAN International Airport’s longest-serving employee, Phakamile Sibutha, assisted passengers with their luggage for 32 years.

Yesterday, he bade farewell to a place that is close to his heart — so much so that he came back from retirement to help with its move to King Shaka International Airport.

As a trolley assistant, he is responsible for ensuring that enough trolleys are available for passengers.

He can often be seen using weird hand signs to help foreigners, and sometimes serves as an information assistant.

Sibutha gets a faraway look in his eyes when he reminisces about his first day at work at the airport, which was then known as Louis Botha Airport.

“It was my first job. The airport was much smaller and there were only five flights a day. I was responsible for luggage, which was loaded by hand on to the planes, and cleaning the airport,” he said.

It was then that his love affair with the airport began.

“I never thought about leaving the airport because it was a stable job, and I loved watching the planes land and take off.

“Most people would think it’s crazy to stay in one job for that long.”

Meeting new people and helping others makes Sibutha a perfect ambassador for KwaZulu-Natal.

“I love this place. There is something magical here, and I think the new airport is going to help spread this magic,” he said.

Even though he is officially retired, Sibutha jumped at the opportunity to help with the move.

His dream to see how Durban International ended and how King Shaka International begins has come true today. “When I heard that we were getting a new airport, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I’m excited about King Shaka as it is going to do great things for our province,” he said.

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