Dube TradePort is eyeing British Airways to establish a direct route between Durban’s King Shaka International Airport and London after having given up on the national airline, SAA.
“There is no hope that SAA will fly internationally out of Durban now, especially after they announced recently that they would be dropping their Cape Town-to-London service,” said Ahmed Bassa, Dube TradePort’s aeronautical executive.
Bassa, speaking at a business breakfast organised by the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that two of the main locations being targeted by Dube TradePort to re-establish international air routes out of Durban were London and Mumbai.
“London is our biggest market, with approximately 100 000 passengers that travel between the UK and KZN. Besides a connecting flight via Joburg, an increasing number of these passengers currently fly on Emirates via Dubai to the UK.
“We are looking strongly at British Airways to start a route from King Shaka to either London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Virgin Atlantic airlines won’t come into Durban because they are a small airline with just 24 planes that fly on the high-profile routes.”
He said that after London, Dubai, with Emirates’ non-stop service, was the next most important market for Durban.
About 85 percent of passengers to Dubai from Durban took connecting flights to other countries, and more than 150 000 people had flown the route in 2011. Emirates had increased capacity by 30 percent and introduced first-class cabins to Durban.
“On one recent flight, seven of the eight first-class cabins were taken up,” said Bassa.
“A cabin costs something like R70 000, so who says people don’t have money and Durban can’t fill business and first-class seats?”
He said that a deal with SA Express to establish routes from Durban to several African cities was another priority for Dube TradePort.
“There is demand for direct air services to major cities on the African continent. While the Durban-Lusaka route will be the first to be launched, our biggest African market is out of Harare.”
He added: “The meetings we are having with airlines are positive, but are taking place in a poor global economic environment. When things turn, more airlines will come into Durban.”