World Cup to draw bizav traffic to Africa

 - May 5, 2010, 6:28 AM

The first football World Cup tournament to be hosted on the African continent is expected to draw a large influx of business and private jets to South Africa for the month-long event from June 11 to July 11. Flight-planning specialists are urging operators to start making plans immediately to avoid potentially serious constraints on landing and takeoff slots, as well as aircraft parking.

Organizer FIFA expects 550,000 people, including 400,000 foreign visitors, to attend the 64 games, which will be held in numerous locations in and around nine cities. Business jet passengers will be a small percentage of them, but they could be among the most inconvenienced by South Africa’s somewhat limited infrastructure. Attendance at the tournament is estimated to be 15 times greater than the previous largest event hosted by South Africa–the 1995 rugby World Cup.

At the forefront of handling arrangements for the bizav influx is ExecuJet Aviation, which operates long-established FBOs at two key airports: Lanseria International (near Johannesburg) and Cape Town International. The company, which was founded in South Africa before going on to become a global business aviation services group, is already working with leading flight-planning companies Universal Weather & Aviation (through its UVAir subsidiary) and Air Routing International to help operators with trip arrangements.

ExecuJet (see box) has prebooked some 16,000 provisional slots for the tournament period; however, the slots cannot be used until they are allocated to a specific aircraft tail number and some important bureaucratic obstacles must be cleared before that can happen. Slot allocation is in the hands of the South African Air Force (SAAF).

Pilots To Be Screened

UVAir senior trip owner Justin Murray explained to AIN that pilots have to be security screened before their operators can even apply for a slot. In theory, only the pilot-in-command needs to be security screened, but UVAir is advising clients to have cleared any pilot who might have to act as captain.

The first step in the process requires the pilots to complete the SAAF’s security clearance form. Once the screening is complete–a procedure that will take a minimum of 24 hours–the SAAF issues a security code unique to each pilot. That code is combined with a flight authorization code to create a unique identifier for each flight plan. A different approval code is required for each separate flight, but once a pilot has a security code he or she can apply for any number of slots.
“Ideally, operators have already started this process, but if they haven’t, they certainly should now,” said Murray in early April. UVAir can provide the security screening forms but the pilots must complete them. Once they do, UVAir can file the forms and take care of other flight-planning arrangements.

UVair warns that aircraft parking space will be limited at most of the 19 airports serving the World Cup (see box on page 16). A drop-and-go policy requiring operators to relocate their aircraft as soon as passengers disembark is likely to be in force at the main airports. Such procedures will require additional slot applications and will increase operating costs.

Hotel rooms are also in short supply, so ExecuJet has prebooked rooms in anticipation of client need. However, minimum-stay rules (probably five nights) will apply at many of them and there will likely be a policy of full, nonrefundable prepayment. Accordingly, UVAir is advising operators chose one location as a base for their stay in South Africa, flying in and out of it during the tournament, rather than trying to move from city to city.

Another consideration for operators will be the need for overflight permits. For example, an operator flying from Europe might have to secure permits from eight or nine different African states in a part of the world that is notorious for bureaucracy. UVAir (Booth No. 7030) warns that the lead-time for overflight permits can be at least 14 days.

South Africa itself will require an overflight permit in addition to a landing slot, as well as a landing permit. According to UVAir, if an aircraft is carrying more than eight passengers the operator will have to apply for a foreign operator’s permit using yet another form, and must do so at least two weeks before the aircraft’s arrival.

The requirement to have a landing permit can be waived if the owner is onboard. In that instance, the crew must carry a letter on company letterhead formally stating that it is a non-revenue flight and that the owner is onboard.

Air Routing (Booth No. 1043) also is urging clients not to delay in making arrangements for trips to South Africa for the World Cup. “We are advising them to solidify schedules now and suggesting they get help if they are not used to flying in Africa,” said assistant manager of operations Matt Pahl. He predicted that operators coming from the U.S. (which already accounts for a large portion of World Cup ticket purchases) will likely opt to fly via the Caribbean or Brazil to avoid having to overfly other African countries.

Air Routing prepares schedules on behalf of clients before passing them along to its South African representative ExecuJet to work on slots and parking arrangements. Pahl said Lanseria will likely prove to be a popular airport for the business aviation community, but he added that Cape Town and Durban International Airport have much larger ramps. Air Routing is also advising operators to prebook fuel purchases to avoid delays.