Durban - Having a direct non-stop flight between Durban and London is great news for customers, whether for business, leisure or an expat who frequents the two cities.

Some 90 000 passengers fly between London and Durban every year. British Airways announced on Tuesday that they will begin flying three times weekly direct from London Heathrow Airport to King Shaka International Airport, 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 from Durban will start from R11 679.

Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents, said additional competition on routes that are extremely popular, like that of South Africa and the UK, means customers have more choice.

“For business travellers, in particular, it means better, shorter, access to key business destinations, instead of being forced to fly through another gateway like Johannesburg. The announcement also bodes well for KwaZulu-Natal and Durban, as Cape Town has very much been the focus for increasing airlift over the past few years thanks to its Wesgro Air Access Partnership which has seen the announcement of several new international routes to the Mother City. Perhaps, this signals the beginning of efforts to open up the east coast and KZN region to international routes and if this is the case, as we have seen from the Cape Town example, inbound tourism and outbound travel will thrive,” he said.

Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group General Manager Product and Marketing, said this is welcomed news for both outbound and inbound passengers. 

“This new route will allow for the convenience of travel to London and Europe for all our customers based in KZN. It will allow for quicker travel time, and will also promote KZN as a very attractive holiday destination for inbound visitors to South Africa.  From an industry perspective, we feel that this is a very positive move from British Airways and one that we fully support for both our leisure and corporate customers.”

Asked if the new route is likely to lower costs for travellers Garrett said: “We are not 100% sure if this direct route will lower the cost of travel in anyway, as the opportunity does exist for British Airways to price this product at a slight premium due to the convenience. We have not been advised of the pricing or yield strategy. I feel that this will be determined once demand has been established.”

Anneke Jordan, General Manager Harvey World Travel Southern Africa, said: “Harvey World Travel franchisees are excited about the possibilities of British Airways International flying three times per week from King Shaka International Airport. Most of our customers are SMME Corporate travelers who will now be given the choice to fly direct to London for added convenience. We find that price combined with convenience and comfort are decision making factors for our customers. If British Airways are able to provide premium economy cabins for our business travellers, it will be an added selling point.”

De Vries said since the route is being operated three times a week, business travellers that need to be in the UK on particular days, or have loyalty programmes with other airlines, may still choose to fly on other airlines that offer indirect routes to the UK.

Daily News