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The ambitious agreement signed between Dube TradePort and private airline Comair to link Durban’s King Shaka International Airport directly to London and several African cities had come to nothing a year after the plan was announced at Indaba last May.
The provincial government, Dube TradePort and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal have been struggling to persuade major airlines to operate international routes out of the airport.
Dube TradePort chief executive Rohan Persad said that it had terminated the agreement with Comair amicably.
“This was a partnership between Dube TradePort and Comair. We fulfilled all our obligations in terms of the partnership. Comair did not fulfil its commitments to provide the air services it had committed to. The parties have terminated the agreement amicably,” he said.
Comair spokeswoman Heidi Brauer said: “The agreement reached the end of its duration. After an in-depth feasibility (study), the increase in fuel price and current economic environment, it was agreed that this was not a realistic objective for Comair in the short- to medium-term.”
Former Comair joint-CEO Gidon Novick, who signed the agreement with Dube TradePort, resigned last year.
The airline, which operates British Airways domestic flights and kulula.com, also reported its first loss in 61 years.
Brauer said Novick’s departure had nothing to do with the termination of the agreement.
She said the airline believed that costs were too high in developing the airport. She said “the mothballed Durban airport” still had potential to serve as a secondary airport.
KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said the pro-vince was “obviously disappointed” that the deal with Comair had failed to take off.
“However, we do not think that this is a major blow to King Shaka International’s plans for route development. Our determination to attract major airlines to the airport remains unshaken.”
Dubai-based Emirates is the only airline operating long-haul flights out of King Shaka International.
Air Mauritius announced recently that it would also drop its flights to Durban from October.
Siza Mzimela, CEO of SAA, said the airline had no immediate plans to establish any international routes out of Durban.
However, Mabuyakhulu, said he was excited about the deal between Dube TradePort and SA Express to make King Shaka International its Africa regional hub.
He announced at Indaba that flights between Durban and Lusaka in Zambia would start from mid-July. - The Mercury