Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has sought to assure visitors that they will not be ripped off by airline companies during the World Cup in June and July.
“There will be no ripping off by increasing airfares,” said at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday after touring the facility with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Local Organising Committee chairman Irvin Khoza and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize.
Motlanthe said that although prices were determined by the airline companies, he believed that people would not be ripped off, the South African Press Association. His comment followed concerns that some airline companies were inflating prices in a “get rich quick” scheme. The Competition Commission in January said it was to investigate collusion among local airlines on World Cup prices and pricing strategies.
A soccer-lover, Motlanthe jokingly said he felt he could put on his football boots and test his skills at Moses Mabhida Stadium, SAPA reported. He was pleased that World Cup stadiums were being completed, but said there was still more work to be done, including preparing to deal with the movement of people during the tournament. “We also need to make sure that we garner the spirit of ubuntu before our visitors arrive,” he said. Motlanthe was hopeful that an African team would win the World Cup. “The cup will remain in this continent. It is a chance of a lifetime,” he said.
SAPA added SA expected the arrival of about 500 000 soccer spectators in the country between June 11 and July 11. Others have put the figure at a lower 350 000. Motlanthe said the benefits of hosting the World Cup were already being felt by the economy and South Africans, through among others the employment of people in the building of infrastructure such as roads and stadiums.
The country would also benefit from tourism as some visitors would come back after the tournament.
But Business Day newspaper today reports that international demand for flights to the World Cup has so far been far lower than anticipated, with only 100 000 tickets sold. The slow uptake meant SAA had about 360 000 domestic seats that still had to be filled, the Department of Transport’s aviation co-ordinator for 2010, Godfrey Pule Selepe, told Parliament’s transport committee yesterday.
Beeld newspaper reports transport chief director Lusanda Madikizela told MPs perceptions about crime and price-gouging could be a reason for this. He noted the international media,particularly in Britain and Germany, portrayed SA as a crime-ridden country. He also warned that prices had rocketed and SA is now seen as too expensive in terms of accommodation and transport. “Already airlines have tripled fees for the World Cup, and hotel room prices have more than doubled,” the Afrikaans-language daily said.
Selepe estimates the eventual number of international spectators would be about 300 000, a third less than the figure projected. “International airlines report that there is no major demand on international routes to SA but are ready to increase supply should demand increase,” he added.
Business Day adds Kulula and Mango airlines have unloaded unwanted seats on to the market two days ago. The majority of international spectators were expected to come on charter flights organised by the 113 tour operators around the world that had been signed up by Match, Fifa’s logistical arm.
The reduced pressure from international visitors would mean the smaller airports should be able to cope. Transport chief director Lusanda Madikizela told Parliament’s transport committee that the international media — particularly in Britain and Germany — had portrayed SA as being crime-ridden and too expensive in terms of transport and accommodation, Business Day adds.
Meanwhile, the state BuaNews agency says SA airports will run 24-hour operations during the event. Airports Company SA general manager Chris Hlekane says “OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth International Airports and George airport will operate on a 24-hour basis for the duration of the tournament, depending on daily demand.”
Hlekane said the need to supply this level of support had been discussed with employees and unions, adding that assurance had been given that the exceptional circumstances warranted the commitment of assured service provision. “As such, we are not expecting any labour unrest during the tournament,” he said.
A significant number of ACSA employees will by the time of the tournament be able to deliver customer services of the highest standard in French, German, Italian and Spanish to international visitors, BuaNews adds.
Business Day added that Hlekan added ACSA’s operational plans were 90% complete and were due to be signed off by May 14, three days before going into operation. SA’s airports would be fans’ first contact with the country and it was vital that Acsa provided a favourable reception, he said.
“OR Tambo will be running at close to its capacity of 60 000 passenger a day in the early stages of the tournament, while flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will be extremely busy. On match days, the airports at Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth will be operating beyond capacity,” Hlekane said.
Key to the plan’s success is the completion of its R17 billion infrastructure programme. All construction at OR Tambo and Cape Town airports will be completed by the end of next month, while the new King Shaka International Airport will begin operating from May 1.