The results from a survey of 6000 travellers in South Africa’s airports has recently been published by local travel booking site Travelstart. A summary of the results:
My view regarding the gripes:
I believe that the price of parking is exorbitant at the ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) airports, particularly short-term parking. Long-term parking is not always available. I can’t understand why parking at the airport should be so expensive (compared to parking at shopping malls).
At OR Tambo I’ve been using a valet parking service that is much cheaper and convenient than parking at the airport. I’ve used MrParking.co.za at least 20 times. They charge R80 for one day or R60 per day (above one day). You drop and collect your car at the entrance to domestic departures and they include a full car wash. The car is parked in a secure parking lot 8km away from OR Tambo.
Uber has launched in Johannesburg offering low cost private taxi services which you can book from a smart phone app. For me this will work out much more cheaper than using the overpriced Gautrain from OR Tambo to Sandton (and onwards to Rosebank).
In Cape Town I’d recommend the MyCiti shuttle from the airport if you’re planning to visit the CBD.
Durban does have airport shuttle services available but the costs are quite high. I think it can actually work out cheaper to hire a car than use a shuttle in Durban.
ACSA needs to improve the situation with luggage. They provide the facility for you to wrap your luggage at R50 a piece and this is too expensive. You’re paying airport taxes. There should be no need for you to have to pay extra to protect your luggage from tampering!
A suggestion is to wrap your luggage with one or two heavy duty black bin bags and sellotape at home before you arrive at the airport. I’ve done this on my hiking backpack which cannot be locked.
This hasn’t been an issue for me – I look at the LCD screens with the flight arrival / departure information or the ACSA website which has live flight information. I can only imagine that the staff working in the airport must me getting a headache from listening to those recurring security announcements.
I had no idea that there was free WiFi on offer at ACSA airports. 50MB is okay but a 30 minute time limit is definitely not generous, especially if you need to check-in at least 2 hours before an international flight or if your flight has been delayed. Since I’m from South Africa I just use my own 3G internet bundle. One thing that ACSA can do is provide cellphone / USB recharge outlets in the airport (they are available in some lounges).
I’m not sure if the length of the check-in queues is an ACSA issue or an airline issue. The long queue lengths have definitely resulted in me almost missing a flight. It can be annoying seeing many empty / closed check-in counters while there is a very long queue waiting to check-in.
I generally check in online and just print out my boarding pass at the airport (with no luggage to check-in). However, there have been many occasions in which the self-service checking terminals did not work so I was forced to stand in the check-in queue just to get a printout of my boarding pass.
Surly check in staff
This has never been an issue for me. My advice is that you be polite and treat check-in staff with respect. If there’s any issues with your flight (missed/delayed/cancelled flight) keep calm, keep cool and use the free WiFi to look for alternative flights – or call the airline’s reservations call center.
What would I like from the airports?
Completing the 5 day Otter Trail hike and heading directly to George Airport for a flight to Johannesburg and realising there are no showers available, even in the airport lounges! Not cool!
I’ve also participated in MTB and running races in Cape Town where I had to head straight to the airport from the finish line. In Cape Town I used the Bidvest lounge showers which are decent.
However, showers should be available to all passengers in all airports (without the need for lounge access).
Transparent and refundable airport taxes
Why do airport taxes differ so much? I have no idea.
Should you pay less tax if you don’t check in luggage? Should you be entitled to a tax refund if you cancel your flight? I think so!
Compared to many international airports I’ve visited, I would rate South African airports above average. However, ACSA can certainly do more to improve the experience.
Check out the full results of the Travelstart survey here.
Do you have any gripes or tips on improving your experience at SA’s airports?