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 during the week that it will launch a continuation link to the coastal city on its already established Istanbul – Johannesburg route before the end of the year. 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.
We revealed in July 2015 that Turkish Airlines was seeking to add Durban to its network, subject to aircraft availability, but during World Routes it was confirmed the introduction of the four-times weekly service via Johannesburg “before November 15, 2015”, but with the potential to develop to a “direct daily flight” as demand increases ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games which will be hosted by the City of Durban. The airline has subsequently opened reservations for the route from November 5, 2015.
“The development and positioning of Durban as an aerotropolis has created a unique opportunity to increase international air arrivals, as it is a gateway unique to the African continent,” said KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Mr. Michael Mabuyakhulu.
“Dube TradePort facilitates the export, import and transshipment of products, and the continued investment by Government will allow the positioning of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa to participate in export-driven activities and international trade. The development of Turkish Airlines’ new international flight route via Durban could not have come at a more opportune time for this city and the economy of the African continent at large,” he added.
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.
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.
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.