Header Graphic

East London Airport

Airport Profile


The East London Airport Profile provides pertinent general information, such as Airport location, ownership, and overall size. The airport is small in size and handles mainly passenger traffic of approximately 2,500 per month. Air cargo figures are slightly lowers at 350 tons /month. Out of approximately 346, 000 passengers in 2004, 140, 000 were domestic holiday makers while 15% were foreign tourists.  


The airport is categorized as a Public Airport with the following World Aviation codes: 

IATA  Code:     ELS 

ICAO  Code:    FAEL 


The airports attributes at a glance are the following: 

·           International License 

·           Proximity to the Port of East London  

·           Proximity to the ELIDZ 

·           Good to fair road and rail network 


 Airport Location


Coordinates: 33 degrees 02’ 06” S 

                        27 degrees 49’ 16” E 

Elevation:        AMSL 133 m/436 ft 

The airport is located in East London (Buffalo City Municipality), on Settle Road, a two lane road, about 60 kilometres from Bisho Airport (a government owned and operated airport).  The city is 674 kilometres south-west of Durban and 1,079 kilometres, east of Cape Town (the two extreme east and west coordinates in the aviation profile of South Africa).    


The historical development timeline for the airport can be described as follows:

·           1927:   Lieut Colonel Alistair Miller requested the Town Council to establish a municipal aerodrome at Woodbrook, west of the city. 

East London


·           1931:   Passenger flights undertaken by 2 de Havilland Moth planes (Saturday afternoons only and Sunday – all day). Weekday flights had to be by arrangement only. It took 11 hours form Windhoek, Namibia to East London. 

·           1944:   New airport built at Collondale, 2km west of current Terminal Building. 

·           1965:   Airport moved to its present site, 9km west of city centre. 

·           1966:   Construction of terminal building completed. Airport named Ben Schoeman (then minister of transport) 

·           1994:   Airport renamed to East London Airport. Major upgrades/renovations to the terminal building. New 1st floor office development for Airport Management staff added. 


 Airport Ownership


The airport is owned and operated by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA). ACSA is solely responsible for approving plans and expenditures for airport facilities. They are also responsible for data to day administration of all activity via the appointed Airport Manager. Management, security and all parking controllers are activities that fall under ACSA Executive staff. SAA and the Equity Aviation supervise baggage ramp and passenger handling. 


Size of the Airport

The airport serves over 422, 672 enplanement, which translates to an increase of 11.5% from 2003. The airport provides air cargo handling, approximately 350 tons monthly in basic perishable and emergency category cargo.  

Airport Activity  


This is a small airport, but has all the required commercial licenses to operate both passenger and air cargo. The primary revenue generating source continues to be passenger traffic and airport taxes (landing fees).  


Air passenger Activity


The passenger volume (April 2005 – April 2006) is show in Graph 1



Graph 1-2: Passenger Enplanements     

Source: ELS Feasibility Study – ACSA and van der Meer - 2006 



Air Cargo Activity


SAA Cargo Building and Express Air Services are located near the airport building. There are two main cargo operators in the airport, SAA and Express Air Services. SAA warehouse capacity is 40 – 50 tons. Within the warehouses, cargo preparation and processing is handled. Express Air Services utilizes 1-Time aircraft’s belly-hold. 



Imported (kg’s)  

Exported (kg’s)  

Freighter + air truck 



Passenger aircraft 
















The yearly overview is indicated in Graph 1-1 @ Boeing 747 freighter capacity of 113.000 kg cargo. 


General Aviation Activity


There are a few hangars for private use. The GA facilities are located separately, fenced off with approximately 400/900 monthly movement.  

Military Activity


No data available to quantify activity levels, condition, etc. 


Airspace and Air Traffic Control 


Due to the size of the airport, its taxiway infrastructure is simple with the CAT I approach on runway 29 and CAT II at runway 11.  These help facilitate safe landing even at low-visibility. 


Airspace Classification

Airport Facilities

Airport facilities contain the following infrastructure (airside as well as landside); namely, runways, aprons, taxiways, ATC, support facilities, etc.


Airfield Facilities



435 ft (132,63 m)  


Operational hours  

06:00 – 20.30 (local time)  


Runway 06/24  



Runway 11/29  



Instrument Landing System  

Yes ( CAT I & II)  


Runway lighting  



Air Traffic Control  



Aircraft fuelling  

Yes (Air BP)  


Cargo handlers  

Yes (SAA Cargo & Express Air Services)  


Push back   






Car rental  

Yes (AVIS, Europe car, Budget, Hertz, etc)  


Fire fighters  

Yes (CAT 7 = length of the aircraft fuselage is 39m up to but not including 49m. The  fuselage width is maximum 5m)   



Yes (airport restaurant and coffee bar)  


Number of check-in counters  



Number of gates  



Source: ELS Feasibility Study – van der Meer (2006)


Map 2:     Aerial View of East London Airport (Runaway, Taxiways and Terminals)











(m)                    (ft) 



1,935               6,348 



1,589               5, 213 





The largest cargo aircraft ever used at the airport was a half loaded Airbus A300. Airfreight crafts commonly uses are Boeing 737 which has a maximum cargo capacity of 16 tons.




Taxiways and Aprons


Taxiway width is 23 metres, accommodating large wingspan aircrafts adequately. 



Passenger Terminal Facilities


The existing passenger terminal is adequate, handling both domestic and international passengers. There is adequate passenger handling, baggage and processing facilities with restaurants and ATM facilities. 


Automobile Parking Facilities


There are adequate parking facilities at the airport. Linear parking-drop-off zone is located just outside the passenger terminal. In addition, there is short term and long term parking surface parking (both sheltered and unsheltered) adjacent to the terminal.  There is staff parking separate from public parking facilities. 


Rental Car Facilities


There are upgraded facilities adjacent to the passenger terminal. The service providers are: Avis, Europe Car, Budget, Hertz, etc.) 


Air Cargo Facilities


SAA Cargo has a Building dedicated to air freight in proximity to the Airport. Express Air Services also uses 1-Time aircrafts to facilitate air freight operations via the aircraft’s belly-hole. SAA has warehousing where they process, conduct all relevant procedures for cargo. Existing space is under pressure due to land constraints in terms of horizontal expansion. The capacity is 40 tons, which translates to ~ 24 TEU’s space with balance as extra space.  


Airlines and Airline Support Facilities


The current operators at the airport are the following: 

·           SAA ( Cape Town and Johannesburg) 

·           South African Express ( Johannesburg and Durban) 

·           Airlink ( Port Elizabeth) 

·           1-Time (Cape Town and Johannesburg) 


Support Facilities 


The airport has a boutique of shops and restaurants, ATMs, telephones and public rest-rooms. There is a coffee shop, bookshop and ground transportation provided by taxis, limo services, etc. 


Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF)


CAT 7 = length of the aircraft fuselage is 39 m up to but not including 49 m. The fuselage width maximum is 5 metres. 


Fuel Storage and Delivery


There is a fuel farm in the airport with a service provider, Air BP. 



Airport Maintenance


There are maintenance facilities. No additional data available. 


Flight Kitchens


There are facilities at the airport. No additional information is available. 


Airport Administration


ACSA management have premises at the airport. The Airport Manager is responsible for day to day administration. Currently, the airport is gearing up for executing an Airport Master plan and also preparing for the 2010 FIFA world Cup and increased ELIDZ growth. Management is also investigating the feasibility of upgrading the airport into an air cargo hub. This is in discussions and one hopes that the proposed Master plan project process will better define the alternatives and a better informed development program is designed. 

Ground Transportation 


Ground transportation is provided by taxis, limos and other private tour busses targeting foreign tours. 


Roadway and Circulation


The airport is located on Settle road, two -lane arterial which connects to the CBD, the N2, and the wild coast - R 72.