Direct Routes to London and into Africa Planned

08 May 2011

King Shaka flights coup

SUREN NAIDOO
8 May 2011


Rohan Persad, CEO of Dube TradePort, left, Michael Mabuyakhulu, KZN MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, centre, and Gidon Novick, joint-CEO of Comair. picture: Jacques Naude

King Shaka International Airport is to get direct air routes to London and across Africa, including the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, as part of a ground-breaking strategic deal signed between Dube TradePort and South Africa’s largest privately owned airline, Comair.
KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu made the announcement late yesterday on the sidelines of the Indaba tourism expo, together with Comair joint CEO Gidon Novick and Dube TradePort CEO Rohan Persad.
Ironically, Novick has been one of the most vocal critics of the development of the new R7.8 billion airport, but Mabuyakhulu said that that was in the past.
“This deal is a massive tourism and aviation industry coup for KZN… Comair have seen what we are doing here at Dube TradePort; they see now that this is more than just an airport and have bought into our greater vision. We have signed an agreement, which is the basis of a much bigger potential public-private partnership,” he said.
“We have secured a long-term strategic partnership with Comair, which we envisage over the next 12 months will see the establishment of a long-haul air route out of Durban’s King Shaka International Airport to London’s Gatwick International Airport.
“There will also be a new route out of Durban to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with a view to investigating a number of other regional links to African cities including Harare, Lusaka, Luanda, Dar es Salaam and Maputo,” added Mabuyakhulu.
In addition, the Dube TradePort Corporation would establish an aviation repair facility to service local and international airlines.
“This investment would represent a new economic sector in KZN – that of the lucrative aerospace industry. When we decided to invest in King Shaka, we made it very clear that we did not just want to relocate from the old Durban airport. It was part of a bigger plan to secure new economic activities into KZN, in addition to regaining international air connectivity for the region,” he said.
“The timing of this major announcement could not have come at a better time when we are hosting Indaba and President Jacob Zuma having last week become the first president in Africa to sign the UN World Tourism Organisation’s Golden Book of Tourism. The government has also identified tourism as one of the six key sectors to create jobs as part of the New Growth Path,” Mabuyakhulu said.
“With Comair, we have a competitive private sector partner with a proven track record, which we believe will see us achieve our goals and see King Shaka fly to new heights.”.
Novick said he had been approached by Persad about the deal less than two months ago. He was taken on a tour of Dube TradePort, including the “agri-port”, cargo terminal and future Dube City development, and was “blown away” by what he had seen.
“Dube TradePort is a mind-boggling development… It is a state-of-the-art world class project that we are proud to be now getting involved with. I realised this was an excellent opportunity for Comair. There is now a huge amount of work ahead of us to get all the regulatory approvals to start flights to London and our plans for Africa.
“This includes getting permission from British Airways to possibly use their brand in operations to Gatwick. There are other options, like using our kulula.com low-cost brand, but British Airways would be our first choice on that route,” he said.
Novick said they would start with three flights a week. He said no airline currently serviced South Africa out of Gatwick, which was more affordable than Heathrow International Airport.
Persad said he was looking forward to a very exciting partnership with Comair, but there was a lot of hard work ahead.