Thursday, July 8, 2010

What a F%ck up Durban’s King Shaka airport drops the ball & destroys our good South African name

What a Mess .........
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It was supposed to be the climax to a fantastic World Cup in Durban, but turned out to be as chaotic as the running of the bulls in Pamplona - at least at King Shaka International Airport and the subsequent knock-on effect.

Disappointed fans, who had paid thousands to attend the match, the media and VIPs and politicians were caught up in delays as the airport struggled to cope with the increased air traffic, including the private jets of the rich and famous, and flights were divertedaway from Durban.

SA singer Danny K, who was to sing at the Durban Fan Fest, was due to take off from Joburg at 5pm, but only landed in Durban at 10pm.

The figures at last night's match gave the lie to the Airport Company of SA's initial attempts to play the situation down.

Just 60 960 people watched the match - the lowest of the seven Durban matches - one that was sold out, and touted to be the "real" final.

From the Washington Post's Steven Goff to the twitterati, the comments until early evening were overwhelmingly positive.

But in a short space, frustrated fans, who saw their hopes of watching the Spain-Germany semi-final dashed, vented their frustration on social networking sites and radio.

A tourism expert said the chaos would cast Durban in a bad light, but that the city should get something positive out of it.

"This morning it was announced on TV that we would bid for the Olympics, so we have to learn our lesson from this."

A riot almost erupted on a flight from Cape Town to Durban as fans rushed towards the cockpit when the captain announced that their flight was being redirected.

Durban soccer fan Jay Moodley said the situation in the plane became "very tense".

The flight had been scheduled to leave Cape Town at 4.45pm, but left about 30 minutes later.

The flight eventually took off, but near Port Elizabeth the captain announced that they were being re-routed to Joburg.

"There was almost a riot on the plane and about 10 foreigners rushed towards the cockpit. The captain told them that they would be arrested if they did not sit down. Things were very tense."

About 20 minutes later they were told that a spot at King Shaka had opened up and that the plane would land in Durban, albeit at 8.50pm - two hours late.

"People rushed off the plane and were trying to make it to the stadium in time for the second half. There was a huge anticlimax when we landed and people were giving Durban the thumbs down."

Airlines said they would demand answers from Acsa.

Up to 40 private aircraft were parked at the former Durban International Airport and sources said Virginia Airport's parking bays were eventually called into use, but questions remained as to why Acsa had allowed private aircraft to park at the airport for the match.

"This is a massive disappointment in terms of planning and I am very eager to hear how it happened," said Kulula.com CEO Gidon Novick, who had three flights diverted to OR Tambo, and more than 500 passengers who missed the match.

Shannon Kalil, from Houston, Texas, whose son-in-law, ardent Spanish supporter Jean-Pierre Baizan - was stuck at OR Tambo - said: "People have spent so much to follow their teams and now they can't land at the airport.

"This is a huge let-down."

Allegations were also rife that preference was being given to private VIP aircraft.

Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said airlines had worked to resolve the issue and get people to the game.

An angry Cape Town woman with a ticket to the match cancelled her flight and forfeited her chance to watch the match because her flight would have landed well after kickoff.

"I can live with it because I can go home and watch there, but Cape Town airport is full of Spanish and German supporters who are stuck."

At about 5.30pm, Acsa spokesman Colin Naidoo said there had been a 20-minute closure of airspace around the airport earlier in the afternoon as too many flights were trying to land.

Asked why there was a problem, he said: "I don't know, but we are now catching up with delays."

Air Traffic and Navigation Services Africa spokeswoman Anna Sanfilippo said, however, the airspace had not been closed.

"We had to implement a ground delay programme (which prevents aircraft from landing and other inbound-flights from taking off) because of insufficient parking."

"I can't keep a plane in the sky if there is no parking," she said.

However, Acsa maintained there was enough parking space.

Naidoo said the old Durban International Airport was used to cater for scores of chartered planes landing ahead of the match and that there had been 30 to 40 chartered planes parked at the old airport.