King Shaka International Airport in Durban ended 2018 on a record high as international passenger numbers increased by 13% in December.
The December peak season performance follows an 11% increase in international passenger numbers for November compared with November 2017. The airport handled almost 5.9 million domestic and international passengers last year, of which 372 543 were passengers on international routes.
“British Airways’ new non-stop service between London’s Heathrow International Airport and Durban, introduced in late October 2018, has propelled growth at KSIA. We are now seeing double-digit growth in international passengers,” says Hamish Erskine, Co-Chair of Durban Direct and CEO of Dube TradePort Corporation.
“The three-times-a-week flight has proved that there is an untapped demand for direct air services into Durban. The growth we are seeing with the Durban-London route is in line with the projected growth demonstrated by our business case to British Airways, which factored it into their decision to introduce the direct route,” he adds.
Erskine explains that, besides the 11% international passenger growth in November 2018 and 13% growth in December (compared with November and December 2017), KSIA’s international passenger numbers grew by a 42% record high month-on-month, between November and December 2018. Besides the British Airways route, this was due to Emirates putting on extra flights between Dubai and Durban in December.
According to official statistics from Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), KSIA handled a total of 5 880 390 passengers in 2018, translating into a 6.4% increase. The airport also handled a total of 553 149 passengers in December 2018, of which 41 054 were travelling on international routes. KSIA’s previous record month was in December 2017, when it handled 520 930 passengers.
“As Durban Direct, our aim is to develop and grow Durban’s passenger market. We have already started engaging with the private sector in order to help us expand the impact of the programme,” says Erskine.
“One of the initiatives within this programme involves working with our airline partners to further stimulate passenger growth through the implementation of an international integrated marketing plan. The ultimate aim is to create an environment where our airline partners see significant growth in demand, which will enable them to justify introducing additional frequencies into Durban.”
Phindile Makwakwa, Co-Chair of Durban Direct and CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, notes: “The December peak season saw domestic and international passenger arrivals and departures reach a record 553 149 – a growth of 6%. A significant portion of this were international leisure seekers, landing in Durban for the festive season, and exploring the rest of KwaZulu Natal.”
According to Phillip Sithole, eThekwini Municipality’s Deputy City Manager for Economic Development and Planning, tourists spent R2.7bn (€176m) in Durban during the 2018 festive season, an increase of R500m (€32.6m).
“We have been working on a co-ordinated strategy together with tourism organisations and the industry to maintain the high standard of tourism products we offer as a city. This, together with greater international and local air connectivity, has seen Durban capably hosting a million visitors during the festive season,” says Sithole.
For the medium term, Durban Direct’s approach will be to focus on growing the frequency and capacity of the airline partners that currently service KSIA. The long-term objective is to attract a direct air link to the Far East, possibly a direct air service into either Singapore or Hong Kong, which would provide better air access to mainland China, Japan, South Korea, and South East Asia.