The first flight of British Airways’ (BA) thrice-weekly service to Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, landed at King Shaka International Airport at 05h35 on Tuesday morning.
Durban is the gateway to KZN, the province in South Africa that combines year-round good weather with cultural diversity, Big Five wildlife reserves, the raw natural beauty of the 3 000m Drakensburg range, warm water beaches and battlefields like Rorke’s Drift, where the most Victoria Crosses in a single battle were awarded.
The airline used to operate a flight via Johannesburg in the mid-1990s, but these were discontinued.
Addressing the media after the inaugural flight, Paolo de Renzis, Commercial Manager Europe and corporate sales Africa, Levant at BA and Iberia, said that the airline had put one of its most modern aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on the route. The flight takes about 13 hours.
Councillor Zandile Gumede, Mayor of eThekwini Municipality (Durban and surrounds) believes that this flight will transform the Durban skyline and landscape for tourism and investment. “This brings a realisation of our visitor strategy, which focuses on attracting visitors and investors from the UK and European markets to our city. This speaks to the city’s commitment to ensuring that Durban remains the gateway to Africa, a world-class destination, and a hidden gem that will soon be revealed to the world.
The arrival of British Airways will make an important contribution not only to growing passenger numbers, but also to enhancing the international status of the airport as a hub for economic growth in the region, says Terence Delomoney, General Manager of King SHaka International Airport.
According to Delomoney, King Shaka International Airport passenger numbers have risen steadily in recent years, with an average increase of 8% per annum over the last three years.
He further revealed that the airport is investing in the region of R420m (€25.3m) in new infrastructure projects, which include the extension of taxiways and the addition of two further aircraft Code F stands to create capacity for expansion. “We believe that this route has the potential to become a daily service, and we will continue working with British Airways to provide any support needed to make this a reality,” added Delomoney.
Sihle Zikalala, KZN Minister for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said: “Having direct flights between Durban and London will undoubtedly spur growth in both tourism and trade for both destinations.”
Commenting on Durban’s offering to tourists from the UK and other parts of Europe, Deputy City Manager for Economic Development and Planning at the eThekwini Municipality, Phillip Sithole, unpacked the city’s slogan “the warmest place to be”. He said not only does Durban boast year round warm weather, but it also has the warmest people and the hottest curries.
Sithole added that the airport was just a few hours from Hluhluwe Game Reserve, a Big Five game reserve in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and was the place former president Nelson Mandela cast his first vote. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, where Mandela was arrested in 1962, is also in the province and has become the site of a monument and exhibition.
The province is also home to the Battlefields Route, which comprises several battle sites, including the Battle of Blood River in 1838, the British defeat at Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 as well as battle sites during the Anglo-Boer Wars: the First War of Independence between 1880 and 1881 and the South African War between 1899 and 1902.
Championship golf courses in the province include Zimbali, Prince’s Grant and Mount Edgecomb.
All these offerings, paired with a favourable exchange rate, make Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal province an attractive holiday option for British travellers.
Flights will depart Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 07h35 from Durban and arrive in London at 17h45. Flights from London will depart Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 15h45 and arrive in Durban at 05h35 the next day.
Credit: Tessa Reed, Tourismupdate.co.za