Dur­ban direct to UK?

Pos­i­tive talks with Bri­tish Air­ways could soon see sav­ings on flight time and ticket costs

The New Age (Free State) - - WESTERN CAPE NEWS - SIBONGISENI MAPHUMULO news@the­newage.co.za

THE time it takes to travel be­tween Dur­ban and the United King­dom could soon be short­ened if an agree­ment is reached be­tween the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, Tourism And En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs (EDTEA) and in­ter­na­tional flight car­rier Bri­tish Air­ways (BA).

This fol­lows a meet­ing be­tween EDTEA MEC Sihle Zikalala and a high­pow­ered del­e­ga­tion led by BA’s di­rec­tor of net­work plan­ning and al­liances Sean Doyle, where the pos­si­bil­ity of direct flights be­tween Dur­ban and Lon­don was raised.

The route could see more than 100 000 pas­sen­gers, who presently fly be­tween Dur­ban and Lon­don via Jo­han­nes­burg or other hubs such as Dubai, sav­ing on travel time and cost.

Zikalala said apart from the dras­tic re­duc­tion in travel time and costs, there was also the eco­nomic im­pact to be taken into ac­count as South African ex­ports to the UK make up 4.5% of the coun­try’s to­tal ex­ports.

“From an eco­nomic stand­point, this route also au­gurs well for im­proved trade re­la­tions as the UK is South Africa’s sec­ond largest ex­port trade part­ner in Europe,” he said.

High­light­ing one of KZN’s sell­ing points at the meet­ing, Zikalala said in­ter­na­tional cargo through Dube Cargo Ter­mi­nal had ex­pe­ri­enced con­tin­u­ous year-on-year growth since 2010.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of new pas­sen­ger flights to Dur­ban saw a growth of 25% in cargo vol­umes, as well as an in­creased fre­quency of char­tered air­craft. In the 2017-18 fi­nan­cial year we ex­pect a 12% growth in cargo,” Zikalala said.

Zikalala said he was op­ti­mistic that the elu­sive ob­jec­tive of a UK-to-Dur­ban direct flight will fi­nally be­come a reality fol­low­ing the pos­i­tive meet­ing.

“We had a very pro­duc­tive meet­ing with BA. They see huge po­ten­tial in the Dur­ban-Lon­don route and we are ex­tremely op­ti­mistic that our en­gage­ment will bear fruit.

“For a num­ber of years now, KZN has been work­ing on se­cur­ing air ser­vices be­tween Dur­ban and the UK and we are happy that BA has fi­nally given us the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage them on the vi­a­bil­ity and po­ten­tial of the route,” Zikalala said.

Speak­ing at the meet­ing, Doyle said BA was eval­u­at­ing its routes through­out the world, adding that the Dur­ban route was one of the routes they viewed as hav­ing huge po­ten­tial.

Fol­low­ing this en­gage­ment, BA will en­gage in its own in­ter­nal eval­u­a­tion and due dili­gence pro­cesses in­clud­ing the brief­ing of the BA board of the po­ten­tial of the in­tended route.

It will, how­ever, have to take in ac­count that other in­ter­na­tional air­lines such as Air Sey­chelles and Turk­ish Air were forced to sus­pend their direct Dur­ban op­er­a­tions due to a lack of traf­fic.

PIC­TURE: GETTY IM­AGES

THE LONG HAUL: Bri­tish Air­ways may soon make Dur­ban one of its direct routes.

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