in Features / Airports

Eagle shapes the future for KKIA

Posted 11 August 2017 · Add Comment

Zambia has, for the past few years, been engaged in major infrastructure development projects to upgrade the country's four international airports. Keith Mwanalushi checks in on progress at the main gateway – Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

There are four international airports in Zambia; five secondary airfields and five airstrips serving international and domestic flights in the southern African country.
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) in Lusaka is the main airport connecting the country with the rest of the world. It is complemented by three smaller airports at Ndola, Livingstone and Mfuwe, as well as secondary airfields at Chipata, Kitwe, Kasama, Mongu, Solwezi and Mansa.
Zambia has no flag-carrier of its own (not since the liquidation of Zambia Airways in 1995) but is served by a number of airlines that connect to international hubs, notably Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Dubai.
The Zambian Government has embarked on a programme to improve the infrastructure at all the international airports and this is being completed in collaboration with private sector participation.
The Zambia Development Agency reports that infrastructure still remains a major challenge to growth, economic diversification and human development in Zambia. As such, infrastructure development is one of the government’s priority areas, and is upheld in both the revised sixth national development plan, and the national vision 2030.
The on-going work at (KKIA), costing nearly $360 million, is being carried out by the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation.
The new airport is being built adjacent to the current colonial-style terminal that has seen little development since post-independence from Britain in the 1960s.
Robinson Misitala, Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL) managing director, said the developmental upgrade projects at KKIA were currently around 45% complete. The time line for completion is October 2019. “There are several facilities being constructed. However, the one garnering the most attention is the new terminal,” he added.
The scope of work at KKIA includes the construction of a four million capacity terminal building with six aero bridges. “The terminal building will be in the shape of an eagle, which is Zambia’s national symbol,” Misitala revealed.
He said there is also a 30-room capacity in-transit hotel, as well as a 70-room non-transit passenger hotel, under construction.
The contractors are also expected to construct new taxiways, aprons, landside and airside driveways, plus a new fire and rescue services facility.
Furthermore, an air traffic control tower, a new cargo terminal, a shopping mall and office complex will be erected.
The new fire and rescue service stations will be complete in 2017, while the new water reservoir and pump house are also advancing well, ZACL reported.
The airport operator also said part of the scope of work is the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the existing airport, which will be turned into a domestic terminal once the newly constructed international terminal is complete. “The current airport will remain in use. However, it will be rehabilitated and renamed as Terminal 1,” Misitala confirmed.
Technology is changing how airports are managed and operated. The global trend is towards ‘smart’ airports using new technologies for passenger and baggage processing. African airports cannot afford to lag behind.
Business intelligence provider, Visiongain, assesses the global smart airport technologies market to be worth 2.99 billion in 2016.
Misitala is fully aware of the pressure to invest in such technologies and he said smart airport systems would enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the airport’s operations, while providing increased safety and security to the travelling passengers and airline operators.
He said several technologically advanced software applications have already been implemented at Zambian airports, including the baggage handling system (BHS), the common user terminal equipment (CUTE), the common user self service (CUSS), the flight information display (FIDS) and the public address system. “These platforms have given us greater control and improved efficiencies in our operations as we aim to continuously improve business results,” he said.
“With the implementation of the smart airport system, we have already begun seeing an improvement in the passenger experience as operational efficiency continues to increase. Business intelligence has enabled ZACL to make better decisions with the right information at the right time.”
Figures released by ZACL show the general passenger movement for the main international airports in the country was 1.6 million. The domestic passenger movements were 274,344, while international passenger movements were 1.3 million.
A positive growth of 4.4% was recorded in international traffic, while domestic passenger movements were down 7.2%.
“The growth in international passenger movements can be attributed to increased activities in both Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and Lusaka. Both cities are increasingly becoming the location of choice for international and local conferences. Livingstone also happens to be our tourist capital,” Misitala emphasised.
He explained that the challenge facing the domestic market was mostly attributed to cost and lack of competition.
The cost of air travel in Zambia is considered high. Currently, Proflight Zambia is the only locally based airline offering domestic and regional services and many see the fares as expensive. In Africa as a whole, it’s not unusual for taxes and airport charges to be out of kilter with the living standards.
A quick glance at the Proflight website reveals the scale of this fare dilemma for local passengers. A domestic fare between Lusaka and Livingstone will cost no less than $325 and a regional service to Durban will set you back at least $500, based on adult fares – way out of reach of the general public.
It’s been widely reported that Mahogany Air has, once more, outlined plans to resume commercial passenger operations from Lusaka, nearly three years after they were first suspended. Even then, airline operations that lack a low cost base will do little to change the situation.
“Currently, the ticket cost is prohibitive and, therefore, it is more convenient for someone to drive to their destination rather than fly, which is what many are opting to do despite the convenience of flying. We hope this trend will cease with the arrival of a national carrier,” Misitala said.
ZACL is hoping that the airport developments in the country will greatly improve the situation for both passengers and airlines, as well as enrich the customer experience while cementing Zambia’s place as the next regional hub.
In fact, the issue of a regional hub has been discussed in depth locally citing Zambia’s geographical location as attractive for connecting services throughout southern and central Africa.
“Our projections for future air traffic growth remains positive with international airlines continuing to show interest in establishing a Zambian route,” Misitala continued.
Qatar Airways, for example, will begin flights between Doha and Lusaka in 2018. “This will help realise the strategic objective of turning KKIA into a regional hub, as Lusaka presents characteristics of a natural hub due to its location on the continent,” said Misitala. “We are surrounded by eight neighbouring countries, which gives us a unique opportunity.”
To be a hub, Misitala strongly feels that there is need for a national carrier to enhance the airport’s position and potential.
“Most, if not all, airport hubs around the world have a carrier that solidifies their strength in the industry. Statistics indicate that when Zambia had a national carrier in the 1990s, passenger traffic was at its peak with domestic outperforming international travel. As ZACL, we remain optimistic of our prospects, as illustrated by our infrastructure investments at our international airports.”

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