Eswatini Air has launched a new route between King Mswati III International Airport in Manzini, eSwatini, and King Shaka International Airport in Durban.
The route’s operations commenced on Friday, using an Embraer ERJ 145 aircraft that can accommodate up to 50 passengers. Initially, three flights per week will be available on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with plans to increase the frequency to seven times a week starting from June, subject to demand.
Siboniso Duma, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs as well as the leader of Government Business in KwaZulu-Natal, expressed his pleasure with the new route, stating that it not only improves tourism opportunities between the two destinations, but also strengthens trade relations.
Duma said: “eSwatini is one of the key regional tourism markets and shares strong historical and cultural ties with the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“Pre-pandemic, tourist arrivals from eSwatini averaged 290 000 per annum and in 2022 tourist arrivals demonstrated a strong recovery of 89%. This presents an exciting opportunity for Eswatini Air to grow as a partner in accelerating the recovery of tourism between the two destinations.”
The new route is predicted to strengthen trade relations between the two destinations, which are already strong. More than 60% of eSwatini’s exports go to South Africa, and more than 80% of its imports come from there.
Additionally, the route is expected to benefit the regional tourism market, with eSwatini being a significant player in the industry and having strong historical and cultural ties to KwaZulu-Natal.
Deputy chairperson of the economic development and planning committee in eThekwini, councillor Phili Ndlovu, said: “As the eThekwini Municipality, we look forward to working closely with Eswatini Air, by creating awareness of the new route and providing support to the airline in an effort to demonstrate our commitment to strengthening relationships with our African counterparts and showing the socio-economic benefits of making tourism a priority in achieving a development agenda. Attracting more direct airlines to eThekwini remains key in order to boost tourism and trade.”
To celebrate the launch of the new route, the government of KwaZulu-Natal and Eswatini Air hosted a delegation of 40 eSwatini dignitaries on board the inaugural flight, which included the Minister of Public Works and Transport, the Minister of Tourism, key media, and select tour operators.
Nkosinathi Myataza, Airports Company SA (Acsa) regional general manager at King Shaka International Airport, said: “The inaugural flight reinforces the importance of the aviation industry and how it remains a key mode of transport, generating significant benefits for an economy, by enabling tourism and trade, more significant in the context of the AfCFTA.
“But more so, connecting friends and relatives of these two countries, especially the KZN region with a long history of fraternal relations. It can also not escape us that this is Africa Month where we celebrate our continent.”