The Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone has announced that the UK’s flag carrier airline, British Airways (BA), is to introduce a direct route between London’s Heathrow Airport and Durban’s King Shaka International Airport. The new service will start on October 29. (King Shaka is located within, and is part of, the Dube TradePort.) The Heathrow–King Shaka route will be the first direct connection between Western Europe and KwaZulu-Natal. The only other direct link between the province and Europe is the King Shaka–Istanbul (Turkey) route.
“This presents an enormous opportunity for both destinations to grow business, trade and investment, as well as cultural and tourism links,” highlighted Dube TradePort CEO Hamish Erskine. “Currently, there are some 90 000 passengers flying [indirectly] between London and Durban every year; King Shaka International also saw passenger volumes reach 5.6-million for the first time in the last financial year.”
“[Durban] is a gateway to many nature reserves, parks and historic sites, and has a thriving food, drink and art scene, defining the city as a must-visit for culture and adventure,” pointed out BA CEO Alex Cruz. He also noted that the warm sea, relaxed beach culture and hot summers made Durban an ideal destination for British holidaymakers.
“We foresee a healthy demand on the UK route; as it stands, airfreight volumes between Durban and London are in excess [of] 1 500 tons per annum; this is expected to increase substantially, with additional volumes into the US markets connecting via British Airways’ London hub,” noted Erskine. “This flight will create an enabling environment for our city to do business with our European partners with ease,” enthused eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede (eThekwini includes Durban).
“The sheer diversity in travel and business opportunities that visitors can access through this gateway into the province of KwaZulu-Natal will unlock enormous potential,” stressed KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala. He further cited the rich shared history between the province and the UK. “We are excited to be able to rekindle that relationship with the launch of this new route.” KwaZulu-Natal is eager to promote its many and varied tourism attractions, which include two World Heritage Sites (the St Lucia Wetlands and the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains).
The UK is already the province’s number one international market, observed Tourism KwaZulu-Natal acting CEO Phindile Makwakwa. The inauguration of the direct London flight would further increase both tourist and business traffic. “Moving people fosters the movement of capital, which means that the economy is active and thriving. When people make travel decisions, ease of connectivity is high up on their list of considerations. This direct link between the two cities will most certainly make our destination easier to package and sell.”
“The investment and trade opportunities presented by this direct flight between Durban and London will undoubtedly add value to our economy,” stated Zikalala. The introduction of new passenger flights to Durban saw a growth of 25% in cargo volumes, as well as an increased frequency of chartered aircraft. In the 2017/18 financial year, cargo growth reached 12%.” Since 2010, international air freight passing through the Dube Cargo Terminal had increased in volume by 138%.
British Airways is part of the Anglo-Spanish International Airlines Group. The airline is currently planning to fly the London–Durban route with new-generation Boeing 787-8 aircraft. In BA service, these are set up to carry 214 passengers in three classes. King Shaka International is already connected with Doha (Qatar), Dubai, Mauritius and Istanbul by Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, Air Mauritius and Turkish Airlines respectively.