King Shaka International Airport.
DURBAN - The start of direct British Airways flight between Durban and London in October 2018 failed to boost King Shaka Airport international tourist arrivals according to Statistics South Africa tourism data.

The number of international tourists arriving at King Shaka Airport in fact dropped to only 3,338 in October 2018 from 3,533 in October 2017. The O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg also showed a drop from a year ago, but Cape Town managed to buck the trend and had an increase in tourist arrivals compared with October 2017.

In recent months, King Shaka has outperformed the other airports, according to Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) data with a 6% year-on-year (y/y) increase in September in the number of passengers after an 8.4% y/y gain in August. This compared with 2.6% y/y gain in passenger numbers for all ACSA airports in September after a 2.4% y/y rise in August. 

The good news is that the British Airways direct flights only started at the end of October, so we are likely to increase in the year ago figures in November, when there will have been a full month of direct flights. 

The British Airways direct flights were announced in May at Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban. The initial service will be three times a week on a Boeing Dreamliner. Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Tourism have been working to get a direct flight to Durban from the UK for years.

Durban deputy mayor Fawzia Peer welcomed the “long overdue” decision and hoped that other international airlines would follow the lead of British Airways.

“Direct air links will improve two-way trade, not only in people, but also in goods, so we welcome this development,” Peer said.

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 and Istanbul, while the regional links are to Gaborone, Harare, Lusaka, Maputo, Mauritius and Windhoek.