Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Fri November 13 2015

New Air Service Puts Durban in the Spotlight

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | November 13, 2015

New Air Service Puts Durban in the Spotlight

Photo by David Cogswell

It lacks the name recognition of South Africa’s other major cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town, but Durban is becoming more important as a hub for the country. This city at the center of a metro area of three million plus got some air time during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and it has another chance to stand in the spotlight in the distant future: The city has been tagged to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

Durban won’t have to wait for that event to promote itself as a tourist destination. There are signs that South Africa’s eastern metropolis is becoming a more popular destination right now. A few high-profile international airlines have announced that they are launching direct flights to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport.

More airlines focus on Durban

Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have all announced new service to Durban. They will join Air Mauritius, Emirates and a few regional airlines like Airlink and Proflight who already offer international flights to King Shaka. Right now, Emirates is really the only practical option, with daily flights from Dubai. Qatar and Turkish will offer service four times per week, with flights originating in Doha and Istanbul, respectively. 

The Qatar Airways service is perhaps the biggest coup for Durban. Called 2015’s best airline by Skytrax, Qatar is enjoying a great deal of success. It will be using one of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the Durban route. Doha is showing that it might have designs on becoming a hub for connecting travelers — an alternative to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Flights to under-served cities like Durban will help it bolster its image as a gateway to Africa and the East.  

A modest start, but a start nonetheless

Even with these new additions, Durban’s list of international routes is still pretty modest. People who want to fly directly from East Asia, Europe or the Americas will still have to stop in Jo’burg or Cape Town before flying to Durban. At the same time, these new routes show that some carriers are starting to think that Durban is growing in importance and will soon have a bigger share of South Africa's travel and business spotlight. 

Qatar Airways, for example, also flies to Cape Town and Johannesburg. Though the Durban service will start out with a lower frequency, the fact that major international carriers are launching direct flights shows that they think the East Coast city is too important as a destination to only be served by connecting flights from other hubs.   

Attractions are already here

Many of the new passengers who land in Durban will be business travelers. The city’s port is one of Africa’s busiest. Durban also has attractions like the so-called Golden Mile, a stretch of oceanfront that is book-ended by the famous Suncoast Casino and uShaka Marine World, which is widely considered Africa’s best aquarium. The city is also considered a gateway to the cultural and nature attractions of KwaZulu Natal. 

As Durban continues to grow, more airlines may choose to add direct flights to the city. By the time it hosts the Commonwealth Games, it may already be a popular African destination.   

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