Passengers onboard the Turkish Airlines flight that landed at King Shaka International Airport were given a warm Durban welcome as they stepped into international arrivals today (Thursday 16 June).
The airline has extended two of its Istanbul-Johannesburg flights to include Durban on Thursdays and Saturdays and has plans to increase these to four weekly flights later this year, depending on passenger uptake.
Currently, Emirates flies five flights a week from Durban directly to Dubai, Qatar Airways flies four direct flights a week, with plans to increase this to five later this month; and now Turkish Airlines brings additional capacity with the reintroduction of flights into Durban.
“The reintroduction of these flights reopens business and tourism opportunities between Istanbul and Durbai; it underpins the resilience of KwaZulu-Natal, its people and leadership to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications of the recent destructive flooding have had on the tourism industry.
“This achievement, along with the recent direct Airlink flight to Harare, Zimbabwe, is indicative of the untapped capacity within our destination for air services, as well as the behind-the-scenes work being undertaken by Government and its agencies to bring air connectivity into KwaZulu-Natal,” Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC, Mr Ravi Pillay.
King Shaka International Airport is regarded as the second-fastest recovering international airport in the country, achieving 71.9% of its pre-COVID-19 passenger throughput in the year to date. By March 2022, international load factors had reached 50% of the March 2020 pre-covid level and domestic load factors have achieved the pre-covid level of 77% year to date.
Turkish Airline’s Johannesburg-Durban-Istanbul return route will boost cargo airlift capacity, said Mr Hamish Erskine, Chief Executive Officer of Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, and Durban Direct Co-Chairperson.
“With the gradual reintroduction of international, regional and domestic air services the Dube Cargo Terminal has seen a growth of 23 percent in cargo volumes over the past 12 months. This is a direct result of the increased capacity available in passenger flights serving King Shaka International Airport.”
Most foreign countries have eased restrictions on South African travellers, provided they are fully vaccinated. While, South Africa’s vaccination rate is lower compared to other countries, a larger proportion of the adult population – the age group that travels – has been inoculated.
Phindile Makwakwa, Co-Chairperson of Durban Direct and Acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, said: “The return of Turkish Airlines is very important for tourism as Istanbul offers our destination fantastic connectivity to our tourism source markets in Europe. Air services continue to play a critical role in ensuring ease of travel for tourists, thereby growing KwaZulu-Natal’s tourism sector, which in turn grows the tourism economy and increases job opportunities within the tourism value chain"
Locally a resilient domestic market has been critical to the recovery of air travel in South Africa with King Shaka International Airport passenger numbers breaching the 72%-mark year to date. Overall, domestic travel now contributes more than 74% of the Airport Company South Africa’s (ACSA) airport network traffic,
Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda, Mayor of the City of Durban added: “Collaboration with our tourism trade partners and other Government entities has enabled us to achieve great milestones under the most difficult time of COVID-19. The road to recovery is promising.”
“Turkish Airlines have stated that Durban remains a strategic market for the airline and country. Prior to COVID-19, Istanbul ranked number seven as a top international destination for Durban, with as much as 88% of outbound domestic passengers originating in Durban. These flights to Durban will make it easier for local passengers to visit Istanbul and will allow travellers from our source markets in Europe to fly into Durban,” he said.
ACSA Regional General Manager, Mr Nkosinathi Myataza, said: “Turkish Airlines flights will add much-needed traffic between Europe and South Africa, this will help in propelling the recovery of both air freight and passenger traveller, a key driver of South Africa’s tourism sector, an economic multiplier for the country.”
“The resumption of Turkish Airlines signifies resilience and demonstrates efforts of recovery and thus rebuilding confidence within the aviation industry. This is important to connecting South Africans to people, places, dreams and opportunities, and vice-versa for inbound traffic.”
Turkish Airlines has a route network connecting 128 countries and 329 cities from its hub in Istanbul.