Turkish Airlines will become the third major global hub carrier to introduce flights to the South African city of Durban, host of this year’s World Routes, after it revealed this week that it will introduce a continuation link to the coastal city on its already established Istanbul – Johannesburg route, likely from late October 2015. KwaZulu-Natal’s largest air gateway, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, is already served by Emirates Airline with direct flights to Dubai, while Qatar Airways has also announced the introduction of services to Doha, via Johannesburg.
Durban will be Turkish Airlines’ third destination in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town. The airline first introduced flights into the country with a three times weekly joint operation to Johannesburg and onward to Cape Town from its Istanbul Ataturk International Airport hub in September 2007 but has grown to offer a daily service on the route, currently flown using an Airbus A330.
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Earlier this year, Turkish Airlines announced plans to separate the Cape Town and Johannesburg link from October 2015 when it will introduce a new non-stop offering to both South African cities. A new daily flight to Cape Town will complement the existing daily link to Johannesburg; the latter will instead be linked with Maputo in Mozambique with a three times weekly onward connection from October 28, 2015.
It is this network switch that has permitted the addition of the Durban tag from Johannesburg and Turkish Airlines will hope these flights will stimulate the market to eventually support regular non-stop services to all three South African destinations in the future.
“The Incorporation [Turkish Airlines] has decided to start operating scheduled flights, based on fleet availability, to Durban of the Republic of South Africa,” the airline confirmed in a public disclosure on the Investor Relations section of its website this week.
It is expected that Turkish Airlines will switch its South African activities still further in summer 2016 to meet seasonal traffic demand. This is likely to see Durban served directly from Istanbul from the end of March 2016 and Cape Town instead becoming an onward tag on this routing than served directly.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that Turkish Airlines carried an estimated 195,000 passengers on its flights between Istanbul and South Africa last year with average loads in the low 90 per cents. Around 55.4 per cent of these passengers began or ended their journeys in Cape Town and around 40.8 per cent in Johannesburg. The remaining 3.8 per cent connected from other points in South Africa, the largest share being from Durban, albeit this was just 1.8 per cent of the overall demand.
The largest traffic flows were direct to/from Istanbul with a 20.4 per cent share of passengers beginning or ending their journeys in the Turkish city. However, there were sizeable connecting flows to a number of international European markets from the airline’s hub - Tel Aviv (4.9 per cent); London Gatwick (3.3 per cent); Brussels (2.7 per cent); Athens (2.5 per cent); Stockholm (2.2 per cent); Copenhagen (2.2 per cent); Gothenburg (1.9 per cent); Oslo (1.9 per cent); Amsterdam (1.7 per cent) and Berlin (1.6 per cent) all had annual flows of more than 3,000 passengers in or out of South Africa via Istanbul.
An estimated 170,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Durban and points across Europe in 2014, highlighting the strong potential on offer to Turkish Airlines which has one of the largest networks across Europe of all the world's hub carriers. The largest country market was the UK, with London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester among the top four markets for travel to and from the South African coastal city.
The chart, below, highlights the largest carriers in this market between Europe and Durban's King Shaka International Airport in 2014. Emirates Airline, with its direct flight into Durban from Dubai was the market leader last year with a 48.7 per cent demand share, followed by South African Airways (19.4 per cent share), British Airways (9.3 per cent share), Air France (4.8 per cent share) and Lufthansa (4.6 per cent share).
The latest network growth comes as Turkish Airlines reveals a further strengthening of its passenger numbers. During the first six months of this year the carrier handles 28.5 million passengers, up 8.5 per cent versus the 26.3 million it carried in the January – June period in 2014. The main growth was in the Turkish domestic market where it boosted demand by 11.2 per cent versus, a lower, but really healthy growth of 6.6 per cent in international passengers.
Although load factors declined by one percentage point between the two periods in 2014 and 2015 to 77.8 per cent, Turkish Airlines recorded a 2.8 per cent rise in International Business/Comfort Class passengers, while international-to-international transfer passengers increased by 12.7 per cent, highlighting the value of its hub business model.
In the space of the last year the Turkish Airlines global network has increased from 257 destinations at the end of June last year to 276 locations at the end of last month with the addition of five more points within Turkey and 14 international destinations to its route map. This growth has been facilitated by an increase in the carrier’s fleet from 257 to 282 aircraft, including ten freighters.