Domestic and international flight passengers were stranded at Cape Town International Airport on Thursday as planes were delayed due to lack of fuel.
A staff member at the airport who spoke to The Citizen on condition of anonymity said a leakage at a fuel depot that fed fuel to the airport had resulted in the fuel not being able to reach the airport. Now all departure flights have been delayed.
For hours, all the airport flight notice screens were showing “closed”, “delayed”, and “indefinitely delayed” and many passengers were redirected to new departure gates with screen notices saying “go to gate…”
A large number of aircraft are parked at the airport waiting for the leak to be fixed.
Many passengers were unsure, however, of why their flights were delayed.
A passenger on the way to Nairobi Kenya was shocked when The Citizen reporter told her what was happening.
“I am supposed to be boarding from here via Johannesburg to Nairobi.”
The situation is becoming a crisis, as some passengers have approached flight ticket inspectors questioning the reason for the delay.
Already several announcements were made through the PA system telling passengers that a “technical problem” had caused the situation and “we apologise for the inconvenience caused” to the passengers.
The announcer said the delays had affected all flights. However, some flights to Johannesburg, East London, Port Elizabeth and George by SAA, SA Express and Kulula.com appeared to be making a plan. Kulula’s flight scheduled for 11.55am started boarding at 2pm.
The situation began to improve around 2.15pm, when many passengers were called to board flights they had waited for for at least two hours.
No official confirmation was obtained for the delay. But the informal sources said engineers were busy fixing the leakage and, once that was done, refuelling of aircraft would start.
The Nairobi passenger who preferred to speak anonymously said: “I have never experienced something like this, but these things do happen sometimes. I see they are professionally trained to handle this situation. But some passengers are beginning to get restless and others are hungry,” she said.
The shipping businesswoman said that, as someone in the transport sector, she understood the plight of the Airports Company of SA.
Another passenger, Tracy McKenzie, from East London was worried about the possibility of sleeping at the airport.
“Imagine having to sleep away from home without planning that. Irritating,” she said.
McKenzie was, however, relieved when her delayed flight was called for boarding.
The waiting area that was filled to to capacity started clearing.
A final announcement was made at exactly 2.27pm that services were back to normal.