Upgraded airport a boost for E.London
The East London Airport officially opened its upgraded terminal on Tuesday, with stakeholders hailing the development as an economic boost for the city.

National Transport Department acting chief operations officer Lawrence Venkile said the development was a “milestone” and central to the city’s economy.

“This development is not isolated to the economic growth of the city, but also adds value to the province.

"It takes place against the backdrop of October as the transport month and now forms part of the broader transport network in the country,” he said.

Work was completed in April, although it was not intended for the Soccer World Cup.

Transport MEC Gloria Barry said the development would meet passenger demands and assist in maximising the capacity of other airports in the province.

The capacity of East London Airport stood at over 700 000 passengers a year before the upgrade, which could now increase to a million.

“The Eastern Cape has been struggling economically and our four airports are strategically located to provide access to investors.

"The Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) and (Port of) Ngqura need to come on board.”

Barry said there were plans to get a connection from Cape Town to Mthatha, and East London Airport would also benefit.

Airports Company of South Africa managing director Monhla Hlahla said the development was a result of the partnership between government and the company.

“The decision was taken to invest in the future. We provided a start to contribute in the development of this area.”

Hlahla said the development would result in long-term spin-offs for the city.

East London Airport manager Michael Kernekamp said there had been major additions to the airport building.

The space had been increased by 6 000m2, there were 15 check-in points and a bigger departure lounge to accommodate the increasing number of passengers.

There was also space for restaurants and parking had been increased.

He said they had budgeted more than R100 million for the project.

“We wanted to improve the look of the dilapidated buildings and increase space for passengers.”

Border-Kei Chamber of Business chief executive officer Les Holbrook said local businesses welcomed the development.

“Through this development, investors are going to come and this will be great for businesses and the economy.”

Holbrook said they had been waiting a long time for such a development.

“I’m excited and this is a fresh approach, something to be proud of, and it will stand for years to come,” Holbrook said.

Article by: Msindisi Fengu - www.dispatch.co.za