King Shaka International Airport has finally caught the big fish, British Airways (BA), to operate a new direct route to London’s Heathrow International – the busiest hub airport in Europe.
The announcement was officially made at the opening of Africa’s Travel Indaba in the city.
It is massive news for Durban, which has not had a direct scheduled flights to London or Europe for more than two decades.
British Airways will begin flying three times weekly direct from London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to Durban, starting on 29 October.
The service will be the only non-stop link between Europe and Durban and will be operated by the airline’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The aircraft will arrive at King Shaka International in the morning and land back at Heathrow in the evening.
Return fares will start from R11 679.
Timetable Winter 2018 - aircraft 787-8
BA 41 - London to Durban Depart 15:45, Arrive 05:35* Days of the week 1..4.6.
BA 40 Durban to London Depart 07:35, Arrive 17:45 Days of the week 2..5.7
Timetable Summer 2018 - Aircraft 787-8
BA 41 London to Durban - Depart 16:45, Arrive 05:35*, Days of the week 1..4.6.
BA 40 Durban to London - Depart 07:35, Arrive 18:45, Days of the Week .2..5.7
Sue Petrie, British Airways commercial manager in Southern Africa, says the direct flights should help grow international tourism to KwaZulu-Natal and provide a more convenient alternative for the province’s business travellers and holidaymakers wanting to get to the UK and Europe.
Sihle Zikalala, MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KwaZulu Natal, says, “We are proud to be able to showcase the city of Durban to the world through this new British Airways direct flight, 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.
BA’s London-based Director of Network Planning and Alliances, Sean Doyle met KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism MEC, Sihle Zikalala, as well as officials from Dube Tradeport, EThekwini Municipality and KZN private sector executives in Durban in February for high level discussions around the feasibility of the route.
Key market for Durban
The UK is seen as a key market for the city and province, with more than 100 000 passengers reportedly travelling between the two cities annually, through connecting flights via hubs like Johannesburg or Dubai.
Dube Tradeport has been trying to secure a London route for King Shaka International since before the airport opened in 2010, talking to BA, SAA, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Airlines, amongst others.
"For a number of years now KZN has been working on securing air services between Durban and the UK, and we are happy that British Airways has finally given us the opportunity to engage with them on the viability and potential of the route.”
Zikalala added, “From an economic view, this route also augurs well for improved trade relations as the UK is currently South Africa’s second largest trade partner in Europe.”
While, Dube TradePort CEO, Hamish Erskine explained, “Durban Direct is KwaZulu-Natal’s route development committee, comprised of various public sector entities, departments and municipalities. Durban Direct has worked tirelessly for the last few years in marketing KwaZulu-Natal as both a tourism and business destination, as well as highlighting the largely untapped demand for direct flights from Durban into local, regional and international destinations.”
Asked for comment by Traveller24 on the planned London-Durban route, Mmatšatši Ramawela, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa says, "This is a huge announcement and fantastic news for the renewal of destination Durban and KZN.
"It is equally great news for destination SA as an indication of our attractiveness as a region within Africa as it gives us enhanced global connectivity. Now KZN and Durban has the giants of the global passenger aviation industry (BA) connecting it with the world.”
King Shaka International’s growth since opening in 2010 has silenced many naysayers and opponents to its development, who said at the time it would become a while elephant.
In fact, last year the airport topped the 5.5 million-passenger mark for the first time and was the fastest growing airport (up 6.4%) of SA’s three major international airports, according to ACSA stats.
Improved customer experience
British Airways also flies twice-daily service from Heathrow to Johannesburg and daily to Cape Town year-round. It doubles the Cape Town schedule during the South African summer season and also adds three weekly flights from Gatwick.
The route expansion comes as British Airways rolls out a 4.5 billion pound, five-year customer investment plan.
On its South African routes it has already introduced new bedding and amenity kits in the Club World Cabin by luxury lifestyle brand, the White Company. The investment will also see a new Club World seat in future.
At Heathrow it has opened a First Wing check-in area with direct security and lounge access. Lounges around the world are being revamped, including Johannesburg and Nairobi.
In World Traveller new expanded menus have been introduced, providing more quantity and quality in the long-haul economy cabin, as well as snack options throughout the flight.
New World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins are being rolled out in the Boeing 777 fleet operating out of Gatwick. It is these aircraft that will fly to Cape Town during the South African summer.
The investment plan will also see British Airways installing the best-quality WiFi in every seat, upgrading the interiors of 128 long-haul aircraft and taking delivery of 72 new aircraft.