Turkish Airlines on Thursday, 16 June, landed its first Istanbul flight at King Shaka International Airport, after a 17-month pandemic-induced hiatus.
The international airline which was operating the Istanbul-Johannesburg route says it will now extend two of these flights to include Durban on Thursdays and Saturdays. With plans to increase flight frequency to four times a week later in the year, should demand reach satisfactory levels.
The airline’s return to Durban – which it first announced in March 2022 – will add some much-needed competition for international carriers flying the Durban route.
Emirates already operates direct flights on the Durban to Dubai route five times a week while Qatar Airways does so four times a week, with plans to ramp up its frequency to five times weekly later in June.
“Turkish Airlines’s flights will add much-needed traffic between Europe and South Africa. This will help in propelling the recovery of both air freight and passenger [travel], a key driver of South Africa’s tourism sector, an economic multiplier for the country,” Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) regional general manager, Nkosinathi Myataza said in a statement.
CEO of the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Hamish Erskine added that the return of the route will also boost cargo airlift capacity.
“With the gradual reintroduction of international, regional and domestic air services the Dube Cargo Terminal has seen a growth of 23% 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.”
A boost for tourism
The airline’s return to the province promises to boost the country’s local tourism sector after South Africa’s low Covid-19 vaccine uptake and the discovery of new Covid-19 variants led to travel bans from various parts of Europe.
King Shaka International Airport is reported to be making a strong recovery following the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. According to the Dube TradePort, the airport has achieved 71.9% of its pre-pandemic passenger output in the year to date.
Further, the port says by March 2022 international load factors had reached 50% of the March 2020 pre-Covid-19 levels while domestic load factors reached the pre-Covid-19 levels of 77% year to date.
“The return of Turkish Airlines is very important for tourism as Istanbul offers our destination fantastic connectivity to our tourism source markets in Europe,” acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Phindile Makwakwa added.
“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,” Makwakwa said.
“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,” MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay said.