• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

EL airport gets an upgrade

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

By Khuthala Nandipha

East London Airport is developing and expanding due to an increase in demand. Recently voted the Safest in aviation small airport in Africa by the Airports Council International; the EL airport transports 1.2 million passengers a year between three airlines.


“Growth wise we are in a good space. Our passenger growth since April this year is at 15% and we suspect that this is because of our low-cost airlines, Kulula and FlySafair. Time is money, people recognise that driving is just too costly and air transport is safer. We are hoping that East London’s economic developments have also had an impact on the traffic we are getting,” said Michael Kernekamp, Airport Manager.


The airport is seeking approval for a larger aircraft to meet the peak demand for conferences and festival groups that prefer to travel together, as they have been experiencing capacity constraints.

“We are also establishing a solar plant, upgrading our departure lounge, building a new office building and a water reservoir. These developments will also include six new retail shops that include a pub, food retails and clothing stores,” said Senzeni Ndebele, Senior Manager for Corporate Affairs for Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).


The departure lounge upgrade will cost a whopping R102 million. The airport currently has a total asset value of R786 million with a staff complement of 79. The crises facing the South African Airways (SAA) will not affect this growing airport as the airline has been struggling since the emergence of affordable flying options. “Our low-cost carriers are the main airlines at this airport, SAA has very few flights and demand,” said Ndebele.


On Tuesday, the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographic Name Change Council held public engagements in East London to discuss the pending name changes that include the airport. Three names; King Phalo, King Tshiwo and Steve Biko have been put up for consideration.

“We have no issues with the name changes, we will implement the changes as and when they have been approved. The cost will be minimal as we will just be changing our branding and in house signs, the bulk of the cost will be carried by the government externally,” said Ndebele.


Michael Kernekamp and Senzeni Ndebele are happy with the business side of the airport.

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