To the casual passers-by on a blustery day on Durban’s famed beachfront, it’s just a surfing lesson in the Indian Ocean’s warm seas. But a closer look reveals a story that’s far more interesting and inspiring.
The two surfing instructors are S’nenhlanhla “Sne” Makhubu and Sihle Mbuto. They’re promising young semi-professional surfers who’ve been mentored by the charity Surfers Not Street Children, which works with vulnerable young people through surfing, and which has been supported by British Airways for more than a decade.
And the pupils, first wobbling and toppling in the waves and then riding with growing confidence? Two British Airways pilots, Senior First Officer Andrew Fonseca and First Officer Thomas Reynolds. SFO Andrew will be onboard the inaugural British Airways flight between Durban and Heathrow from October 29th.
But the surfing lessons were just the start: the four then flew to London, where Ms Makhubu and Mr Mbuto were taught to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner simulator at British Airways’ Global Learning Academy.
The two youngsters were awed and thrilled at the experience and Fonseca said, “It was a truly moving experience for us all, first learning to surf in the wonderful tropical playground of Durban, and then showing Sne and Sihle how to fly the 787 Dreamliner, which is the aircraft that will serve the Durban-London route three times a week.”
But beyond the fun of the balmy waves and the camaraderie, laughter, hugs and high-fives was a tale of overcoming: Tom Hewitt MBE, founder and director of Surfers Not Street Children said, “We’ve helped thousands of young people at risk since we founded this organization in 1992. We couldn’t have done so without British Airways continued support.
Hewitt notes that Ms Makhubu is being tipped to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, when surfing will be included as an event for the first time.
Paolo De Renzis, British Airways’ and Liberia’s Commercial Manager for Europe, Africa and the Levant said, “We’re delighted to be starting flights on this route, especially as there’s so much excitement about it in Durban, the province of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa, and in Britain.
“While Britain and KwaZulu-Natal differ in many ways, they also share many characteristics: rich history, diverse, multicultural character, myriad attractions and good infrastructure. It’s why we’re proud to offer British Airways’ hospitality and service on this route. It should help grow international tourism to KwaZulu-Natal and provide a more convenient alternative for the province’s business travellers and holidaymakers wanting to get to the UK and Europe.
Return fares from Durban will start from R8 999 in World Traveller, R17 240 in World Traveller Plus and R36 999 in Club World.
British Airways also flies twice-daily service from Heathrow to Johannesburg and daily to Cape Town year-round. It doubles the Cape Town schedule during the South African summer season and also adds three weekly flights from Gatwick.
The route expansion comes as British Airways rolls out a £4.5 billion, five-year customer investment plan, with a focus on excellence in the premium cabins and more choice and quality for all its customers.