The reintroduction of direct flights between Johannesburg and Madrid by Spanish flag-carrier airline Iberia in August 2016 has resulted in a significant boost in travel between South Africa and Spain. This was reported by Airports Company South Africa assistant general manager (client and passengers services) OR Tambo International Airport Faith Mhlanga on Thursday.
From May 2017 to May 2018, Iberia’s air traffic movements through the airport had increased by 7.69%, she pointed out in an address to the media at an Iberia function at the airport. The number of passengers who flew out of the airport on Iberia increased by 8% over the same period. Most of these passengers are flying between the two countries, although some from South Africa did use Madrid as a hub to fly on to other destinations.
“Two things really help to bring people together,” observed Spanish Ambassador to South Africa Carlos Enrique Fernández-Arias Minuesa. “One is the Internet; the other is tourism. Spain knows that! We received last year 90-million visitors: double the size of the Spanish population. There is growing, also, [two-way] travel between South Africa and Spain.”
“As part of our ongoing relationship, our ambition is to partner with Iberia Airlines so they can continue to achieve consistent and sustainable growth which will stimulate our regional economy leading to job creation,” stated OR Tambo International Airport GM (Ms) Bongiwe Pityi in a press release. The Ambassador expressed the hope that the increasing air traffic between the two countries would, in due course, allow Iberia to add additional flights on the South African route, such as a connection to Cape Town.
Iberia had ordered 56 new aircraft since 2011, including 12 Airbus A330-200 wide-body airliners. The function on Thursday was to mark the naming of one of these new A330-200s, registration EC-MUD, “Johannesburgo”. This is believed to be the first time that Iberia has named an aircraft after an African city.
“At Iberia, when we name an aircraft, we like to pay tribute to people and places important to us,” explained Iberia head of sales: Europe, Africa and Asia Celia Muñoz. And Johannesburg was important to the airline not only as a destination, but also as the site of the final game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which Spain won, giving the country its first ever World Cup trophy.
The aircraft, “Johannesburgo”, will not be used only on the South Africa route. The airline is using its new A330-200s also to serve routes to Havana (Cuba), Medellin (Colombia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) in Latin America; Los Angeles and San Francisco in the US; and Shanghai (China) and Tokyo (Japan) in Asia. Muñoz pointed out that the airliner would now carry the name of Johannesburg to destinations around the world. “Johannesburg is now becoming a brand name for South Africa in Spain [because of Iberia],” affirmed Fernández-Arias.