King Shaka International Airport.
DURBAN -  King Shaka International Airport passenger data from the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) shows Durban beat the other eight Acsa airports, as its total passenger movement increased by 6.8% year-on-year (y/y) in January compared with the national gain of only 0.8%. 

King Shaka had shown a gradual slowdown in growth in 2018 last year despite the start of direct flights between Durban and London in October. The annual growth slowed to 6.4% in 2018 from 6.5% in 2017 and 8.5% in 2016. Despite the slowdown, King Shaka outperformed the other airports, as the increase in passenger numbers for all Acsa airports was only 1.1% last yearn 2018. The hope is that the 6.8% y/y rise in January will continue for the rest of the year. 

The good news is that King Shaka will enjoy more international traffic as British Airways (BA) now has three flights a week between London and Durban so the y/y increase in international arrivals accelerated to 15.2% in January from 14.6% in December, 13.8% in November and only 4.6% in October. The bad news is that the more volatile regional arrivals fell by 9.1% y/y in January after an 18% y/y plunge in December, a 5.0% y/y gain in November and a 6.3% y/y drop in October.

The increase in international arrivals has meant that the passenger mix is changing with domestic passenger arrivals only accounting for 91.2% of total arrivals in January compared with 93.1% in December and 94.5% in June. The stable growth in domestic arrivals of 6.2% y/y in January from 6.1% y/y in December meant that King Shaka was able to outperform the other Acsa airports as domestic arrivals for all Acsa airports eased to 1.8% y/y in January from 2.3% y/y in December and 2.8% y/y in November. 

The start of the BA flights was announced in May 2018 last year at Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban. 

The Durban Direct Team that includes all Durban and KZN tourism, government, hospitality agencies, Dube Tradeport and Acsa have been working to get a direct flight to Durban from the UK for years. 

The city's deputy mayor, Fawzia Peer, welcomed the “long overdue” decision and hoped other international airlines would follow.

“Direct air links will improve two-way trade, not only in people, but also in goods, so we welcome this.”King Shaka Airport currently has only a few inter-continental and regional direct flights as most airlines fly into Johannesburg or Cape Town. The inter-continental links are to Doha, Dubai, London and Istanbul, while the regional links are to Gaborone, Harare, Lusaka, Maputo, Mauritius and Windhoek.

In November Cape Town airport received its first direct airlink with China when Cathay Pacific inaugurated a direct flight between Cape Town and Hong Kong. 
 From a revenue point of view, King Shaka Airport gains more from departing passengers as they have time to shop and eat before departure, while on arrival, passengers head for their destination as soon as possible. 

Overall there were 235229 arrivals and 246053 departures in January in contrast to the December figures when there were 273,527 departures in December 2018 compared with 279622 arrivals. In June, when more domestic tourists head for Durban’s beaches, it returned to the December holiday ratio with 243322 arrivals and 237276 departures. 

August the ratios were almost equal with 233329 arrivals compared with 233154 departures, while in September there were 247283 departures and 242 450 arrivals.

A decision by British Airways to introduce a direct, non-stop flight between London’s Heathrow Airport and Durban’s King Shaka International Airport is a game-changer for KwaZulu-Natal as it will be instrumental in contributing to an increase in international arrivals from the UK and North America.  

- BUSINESS REPORT