A new chapter in KZN aviation

2010-05-01 00:00

WHEN flight SAA586 left the old Durban International Airport last night, it marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for aviation in KwaZulu-Natal.

The King Shaka International Airport in La Mercy, north of Durban, finally opens its doors to the public today, after three years of construction at a cost of R8 billion.

It has been a long and arduous journey for those involved in the project, which included ensuring that the thousands of barn swallows that migrate to the area each year are safe.

The idea of King Shaka International was first discussed in the 1960s when government decided that the 2000 hectares of sugar cane fields were perfect for an airport.

The earthworks and a drainage system were completed by 1973, but construction was abandoned due to the slow economic growth of the area. The site was forgotten until President Jacob Zuma, who was then KZN MEC for Economics and Tourism, announced at a London conference that King Shaka International was to be built.

Plans were approved by the national government in 2002.

King Shaka International has 102 000m² of floor area in its passenger terminal building, and can accommodate 7,5 million passengers each year. The terminal has been constructed to allow for future expansion.

Staff at King Shaka International have begun preparations for the thousands of delegates who will visit Durban for the Indaba tourism trade show, which opens on May 8.

Meanwhile, airline companies, restaurants and car rental companies moved in weeks ago and are ready for business.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) brand and communications manager Colin Naidoo said some staff members have been moved to the airport already to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Extra staff have been brought in from around the country to help at Durban International.

Zuma will officially open the airport on May 8.

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