Emirates flights highlight need for more routes
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The success and high “load factors” of Emirates’ daily flight between Durban and Dubai was proof that international routes out of King Shaka International could work, said Ndabo Khoza, chief executive of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.
He was speaking at the Tourism Business Council of SA’s Hotel Investment Conference Africa in Durban last week.
Despite the economic turbulence in the global aviation industry, there were opportunities for new routes that were not being explored, Khoza said. “We have been chasing international airlines to come into King Shaka International Airport. It’s an obsession for us because we have to get the new airport working optimally,” he said.
“Considering the global challenges facing the airline industry, maybe it’s time they consider changing the way they do business. The Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates are growing because they are innovating in the aviation space. Emirates is backing Durban and plans to bring a bigger Boeing 777 on the daily route to Dubai from June.”
Emirates now operates an Airbus A330-200 on the route. The bigger plane will see first-class cabins being offered on a Durban route for the first time in over a decade.
“The introduction of the Boeing 777-300ER is in response to strong demand on the route. In 2011, Emirates carried over 165 000 passengers between Durban and Dubai with a high average seat factor of 83 percent,” said Jean Luc Grillet, Emirates senior vice-president for commercial operations in Africa.
On Monday, KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu told The Mercury he did not think the failure of the deal between Comair and Dube TradePort to launch a London route was a major blow to King Shaka International’s route development plans.
“Most international airlines work on a five-year planning cycle and… we believe that many airlines will see the value of utilising the airport. Our determination to attract major airlines to the airport remains unshaken,” he said.
“We are under no illusion about the challenges facing the aviation industry globally. The industry is in a bit of an economic tailspin globally and few are looking at new routes.”
Speaking at the Indaba tourism trade show on Monday, SAA chief executive Siza Mzimela said the airline had no immediate plans to establish international routes out of Durban. SAA has been criticised by the provincial government for this and also for dropping flights between Durban and Cape Town.
Mabuyakhulu said Emirates’ move to bring a bigger Boeing 777 on to the current Durban-Dubai route was a positive development.
He also revealed more details at Indaba of the deal between Dube TradePort and SA Express to make King Shaka International its Africa regional hub.
“We are really excited about this project… As part of the deal, flights between Durban and Lusaka in Zambia will start from mid-July. Ten other regional routes are on the cards over the next 24 months. Our strategy is to focus more on the African market and particularly on the Southern African Development Community. “We want to see more airlines from the… continent flying out of King Shaka International. The unprecedented growth of African economies means that the aviation industry on the continent is on the cusp of a boom and we want a slice,” he said.