In the spotlight: Bongani Maseko, ACSA

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Bongani Maseko joined Airports Company South Africa in 1999 and was formally appointed as CEO in May 2013 (the title formerly known as Managing Director). In 2011, Bongani was appointed as Acting Managing Director, following seven years as the company’s Group Executive: Airport Operations. His responsibilities included the day-to-day operations at all of the company’s airports as well as ensuring that the strategic objectives of the company are met. Prior to his role in Airport Operations, he also spent three-and-half-years leading O.R. Tambo International Airport as General Manager.

Bongani is a Board Member for ACI World and ACI Africa. He has a degree in Aviation Business Administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida (USA), where his studies focused on airport and airline management. He continued his studies at the University of California in Airport Systems Planning and Design and Airport Ground Transportation Planning. He gained considerable experience at San Francisco International Airport in the USA, where he worked in various capacities for eight years.

 Q: Tell us a little about your background, the companies you have worked in, been involved with or had an interest in?

A: Aviation has been my entire career. As my entry-point into the sector, I took an internship at the San Francisco International Airport. While I was there (in various positions), it was the fifth-largest airport in the world. It was huge, and busy, as are most of the airports in the USA. In 1999, I joined Airports Company South Africa, and have been with them ever since.

Q:  How, in your opinion, has the market changed in the past five years?

A: One area where you see noticeable change is that cities are becoming more aggressive at attracting airlines, and thus more visitors. The Westgo Air Access team has done phenomenal work in selling Cape Town as a destination. King Shaka International Airport and the Dube Trade Port have done the same for Durban. In our case, because traffic is so important, it’s critically important. Airlines such as British Airways operated by Comair have continued to grow.

We’ve also seen some of the bigger Gulf carriers, like Emirates, aggressively attack the African market. Interestingly, though, what I have noticed is that people prefer to fly direct. Five years ago, transiting through Dubai was very attractive. Five years ago, Cape Town-bound traffic was transiting through ORTIA. Now the airlines from Europe, Great Britain, the Middle East and the sub-Asian continent are operating directly into Cape Town.

Q: Where do you see the aviation sector moving, or evolving in the coming years?

A: ACSA needs to ensure that we keep the traffic we have. ORTIA connects to every major continent, mainly through SAA, including North and South America, the Middle and Far East, Europe and Australia. We need to keep this connectivity to make South Africa an attractive destination.

Q: What has been your most memorable incident in the travel industry from a professional experience point of view?

A: In the life of an airport manager, you almost never get to commission a new airport; I was lucky to have that experience with King Shaka International Airport. The same goes for building new runways, which is what ACSA is going to do in Cape Town. Hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010 was memorable moment for me.

Q: If you were the Minister of South African Travel & Tourism, what would you do to improve things?

A: One of the big impediments is the confusion around the visa regulations. And with tourism being such a large contributor to South Africa’s economic growth, we should be doing things that attract more tourist instead of making it more difficult for people to visit. I would strongly urge the implementation of an Open Skies policy. At some point we will need, as a country, to discuss to what extent we will protect SAA to the detriment of tourism.