The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) is calling on government to curb tariff increases by Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) and the Air Traffic Navigation Service.
AASA says mooted increases of 132.9% for Acsa airport fees and 33% for ATNS will send the cost of air travel soaring at a time when the industry is struggling.
Business Report newspaper notes this morning that Acsa is investing R15 billion on improving and enlarging the country’s nine state-controlled airports, with much of the work due to be completed in time for the soccer World Cup next June, when thousands of fans will arrive from all over the world.
Acsa intends passing most of the costs on to airport users, particularly the airlines.
AASA CE Chris Zweigenthal told the association’s annual conference at the weekend that it was common knowledge that the proposed increases were “unacceptable to the airlines both within and outside South Africa”.
“Such increases place Acsa and ATNS in an almost ideal financial position very quickly, contrary to the positions of airline stakeholders. We believe the shareholder (the government) has a responsible role to play, especially in the case of Acsa, where significant dividends have over the past years been paid to the shareholder.”
Noting that the R7 billion new airport of La Mercy at Durban was being constructed without consulting the airlines – many of which say they do not plan to fly into it although they are expected to pay towards it – Zweigenthal said AASA believed its building had been “accelerated ahead of its time to meet the opening of the World Cup”, due to pressure on Acsa.
“I believe that had consultation commenced even before the airline community was brought into the process, Acsa could potentially have achieved a far higher buy-in to the new airport and we could have found ways to assist in finding a more cost effective construction.”
Pointing out that the Association of European Airlines called for a freeze on tariff increases while negative growth hindered the industry, Zweigenthal said times were tough for all South African stakeholders “and Acsa and ATNS need to share the airlines’ pain”.