Acsa offers 'goodwill gesture'
Johannesburg - The Airports Company SA (Acsa) has set aside R400 000 as a "goodwill gesture" for flights which had to turn back from Durban during the World Cup semi-final, spokesperson Nicky Knapp said on Friday.
Knapp said the company would release further details shortly, following the incident on Wednesday when private pilots refused to move their planes, clogging up King Shaka International Airport in Durban ahead of the Spain vs Germany match.
However, Comair, which had taken initial legal advice on a class action lawsuit on behalf of its passengers, said this was way below customers' losses.
"One guy said he lost R30 000 on tickets, the game, air travel and overnight stay," said Comair spokesperson Heidi Brauer.
The airline, operated by British Airways, was among those furious about being forced into a holding pattern, despite having secured landing rights at the King Shaka International Airport two months ago.
"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."
She said they had prepared everything for Wednesday's schedule well in advance - requested slots, had the slots approved and planned their schedule accordingly ahead of selling tickets.
"You simply don't give them to any sexy aircraft that says we will land here and stay here," said Brauer.
Acsa explained on Thursday that the Central Airspace Management Unit system, which controls aircraft movement into and out of airports, crashed on Wednesday.
This resulted in air traffic services allocating slots on a first-come, first-serve basis with private operators taking advantage of the situation.
Planes wanting to land around noon were delayed for 20 minutes due to low clouds, which affected visibility.
And then, due to the increase in traffic volume in the Durban airspace, at about 14:00 controllers decided to impose airspace restrictions which meant no Durban-bound aircraft could take off for 30 minutes.
Action against private operators
When restrictions were lifted around 17:00, eight private aircraft operators who had landed refused to leave for the old Durban International Airport, south of the city, leaving no space for others.
Six scheduled flights - from SA Airways, Kulula.com and British Airways - were forced to either return to base or head for other airports, preventing about 600 passengers from getting to the match.
Instead of the usual 100 planes, the airport had to deal with about 250.
The transport department had collected the details of the aircraft involved.
"We are looking at taking appropriate action against the private aircraft,” said Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele’s spokesperson Logan Maistry.
Air Traffic and Navigation Services said they too would release a written statement later on the incident.