Congratulations to Cape Town on being announced as the Best Destination in the World by the popular travel site Trip Advisor. A worthy accolade for a beautiful city that offers visitors the best of all worlds, from immaculate beaches, stunning mountain views, tasty wine routes, and fine dining. How is it then that the officials and planners at the supposedly world-class Cape Town International Airport make it so difficult to welcome visitors to this city?
Prior to its 2010 Soccer World Cup upgrade, the airport was criticised for being a tad too small and impractical to service such a burgeoning tourist destination. Of particular concern was the lack of available parking, especially for those that needed to leave their cars at the airport while traveling locally for business. Indeed, it became almost common sight to see vehicles all-but abandoned on pavements and across solid red lines as desperate passengers made the decision to make their flights and pay any potential parking fines later. One thing that did work pretty efficiently at the “old” airport, however, was the stop and drop area. Granted it wasn’t nearly large enough so got a little tight during peak times, but there seemed to be a general understanding that, as long as you didn’t leave your vehicle at any point, you were allowed to wait for a reasonable amount of time for your arriving passengers to collect their luggage, shake hands or exchange a kiss, and head off towards the N2. Simple. Without too much fuss this same area was used to seamlessly drop departing passengers off, without even switching ones engine off.
So, now that the Cape Town International Airport has more than enough parking and a swanky new, ramped up, drop off area, you would think that the collection of friends, relatives, and guests would be even more convenient than ever before. In fact, this is one of the features advertised on the ACSA website using statements like “changes have been implemented to create service improvements” and to “improve convenience”.
Essentially, this new system no longer allows you to simply collect a waiting passenger from outside of the airport building. This wide-open area, with its 80-odd parking bays, is strictly for departing passengers only. In order to fetch a passenger you are instructed to drive into the parkade (already inconvenient), take a parking ticket that allows you an “ample” 30 minutes free parking, find an allocated bay, leave your car, walk to the airport lobby, find your passenger, shake their hand or kiss their cheek, walk back to the parkade, find your car, load the luggage, and find the exit. Be warned though, there a heavy fee (R35 per hour) is payable should you not be able to complete this task within the “ample” 30 minute time allocation. Further convenience is provided by an up-to-date flight information schedule IN THE AIRPORT LOBBY. This means that by the time you find out that your passenger’s flight is delayed you are already parked with the clock ticking on your 30 minutes…
Should you choose to shun this new and very convenient collection system, or simply not want your wife or loved-one to have to walk through the airport car park to find you, you are welcome to take your chances and wait at one of the many empty bays at the departures drop off area. Here you will instantly be greeted by one of more than ten extremely efficient officials who will inform you that, despite there being no other cars around (and likely no more departing flights for the evening) that you should rather waste petrol and patience by enjoying the conveniently provided circular driving route for as many loops as it takes for your arriving guest to be standing outside the airport doors. As a note, there are freshly painted signs around helping you actually find your way back to this zone (it’s a long run back to the N2 should you miss it).
How is this convenient? Surely with the benefit of some foresight and planning ACSA would have figured that, like most efficiently run terminals around the world, the majority of domestic passengers simply require a quick drop-off, and collection point, outside of the building so that they can carry on with their day with the least inconvenience to both themselves and the person collecting them?
Cape Town may be the Best Destination in the World, but it certainly isn’t the best place in which to arrive!