British Airways launches new route from London to Durban
It's hoped that the new service will act as an economic driver for KwaZulu-Natal tourism
Fire engines, a brass band, drummers and dancers were on hand to welcome a British Airways airliner as it touched down at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport just after sunrise this morning at the start of scheduled services between London and Durban.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner - one of the carrier’s newest aircraft - brought a planeload of dignitaries, reporters and tourists, some of whom were clearly bemused by the welcome which included champagne and orange juice in the arrivals hall and airport sniffer dogs investigating their bags.
The route to South Africa’s third most populous city complements the airline’s daily services to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Both the airline and KwaZulu-Natal tourism officials have high hopes for the new service which will offer inbound travellers easier access to the province’s game parks and beaches and act as an economic driver for Durban which has long wanted more foreign carriers to offer direct flights from its under-used international airport.
The airline will offer three flights a week between London and Durban, southbound on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, returning to London the following the day.
The fares, by necessity, have been pitched to attract travellers who might otherwise fly via Johannesburg. The economy class return launch fare - which runs from October 30 to November 4 - is R7,740, after which it will be R8,762, subject to certain conditions. A return fare in Club World, the airline’s business class, is R33,740.
British Airways’ Paolo De Renzis says the world is changing with increased competition putting pressure on notoriously thin airline margins. That has been partially mitigated by the arrival of much more efficient aircraft which means carriers may be able to make money on routes that were previously unprofitable.
De Renzis noted that British Airways launched the world’s first long-haul commercial passenger jet service when it began flying Comet airliners from London to Johannesburg in 1952, a flight that had at least four stops and took more than a full day.
With the 787 covering the the nearly 100,00km between Durban and London in around 11 hours, De Renzis noted that the new flight is “a great step forward”.