A black eye for Durban

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

DURBAN - A city that had gotten great reviews throughout this World Cup, finished its run with a black eye.

Durban, known for it's beaches, hospitality and weather, hosted the semifinal between Spain and Germany Thursday at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The stadium with a capacity of between 65,000 and 70,000 was sold out for the match. But several thousand seats remained empty.

Many of those ticketholders were circling King Shaka International Airport.

In a situation that threatened to break out several times, the airport had to delay and cancel many flights scheduled to land.

The airport could not cope with the increased traffic especially when private jets "of the rich and famous" arrived at the last minute, landed and parked creating a traffic jam.

"People who frankly showed up at the last minute wanted to park," Airports Company of South Africa CEO Monhla Hlahla told a Durban newspaper. "We expected everyone to follow the rules."

Just 60,960 people were at the semifinal, the second-lowest attendance figure for the games played in Durban.

As usual, airport authorities blamed a technical glitch for the problems.

Caught up in the traffic were fans, media who had attended the night's previous semifinal in Cape Town and some celebrities including actress Charlize Theron. Theron’s flight was given landing priority when there was room.

A 1Time flight from Cape Town to Durban circled over Durban when the captain announced it was being diverted to Johannesburg, an hour away.

A passenger told the newspaper that when the announcement was made "about 10 soccer fans jumped up from their seats and rushed towards the cockpit."

The captain announced they would be arrested if they didn't sit down. The flight landed in Johannesburg and 20 minutes later it took off again after being told there was room at the Durban airport.

When the flight landed fans rushed to make it to the second half of the game.

A spokesperson for Air Traffic and Navigation Services Africa said there were 488 flights booked to land and depart from the airport and there were only four parking bays available in the evening for Boeing 737s.

The experience is not the kind of send off Durban was looking for.

The $135 million (CDN) King Shaka International Airport was newly-built to handle World Cup traffic.


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