The new route has been welcomed by customers and business.
With an African choir delivering a soaring medley of British pop songs and a flash-mob featuring icons of KwaZulu-Natal and the United Kingdom, King Shaka International Airport welcomed flight BA41, this morning.
The British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was the first of three direct flights a week between Durban and London’s Heathrow airport, in what’s seen as a major boost for business and leisure travel for KwaZulu-Natal.
The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner has an advanced design. Its composite fuselage has larger windows and allows for higher pressurisation and more moisture in the cabin air, all of which contribute to customer well-being.
Paolo de Renzis, commercial manager for Europe, corporate sales and Africa, Levant at British Airways and Iberia, was among the passengers to disembark.
They were accompanied by actors playing British icons including the Queen (and her corgi), the Beatles and met by the KwaZulu-Natal counterparts such as a rickshaw runner and a surfer.
De Renzis said, “Since we announced this new route in May, there’s been a great deal of excitement about it. The travel trade, business interests, government and the public all appreciate the benefits of the move.”
According to De Renzis, that’s why they are especially pleased to be offering their most modern and comfortable aircraft on the route, and to connect two wonderful destinations with a direct flight between Terminal 5 and King Shaka International.
“While Britain and KwaZulu-Natal differ in many ways, they also share many characteristics: rich history, diverse, multicultural character, myriad attractions and good infrastructure. It’s why we’re proud to offer British Airways’ hospitality and service on this route. It should help grow international tourism to KwaZulu-Natal and provide a more convenient alternative for the province’s business travellers and holidaymakers wanting to get to the UK and Europe,” he added.
On the apron at King Shaka International Airport were (left) Zandile Gumede, mayor of eThewkini Municipality, Paulo de Renzis, commercial manager for Europe, corporate sales and Africa, Levant at British Airways and Iberia, head of Middle East, Africa and Central; and Sihle Zikalala, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal.
Sihle Zikalala, the minister for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said having direct flights between Durban and London will undoubtedly spur growth in both tourism and trade for both destinations.
“We are certain that South Africans will embrace the opportunities offered by the direct flights from Durban ensuring that we fully benefit from these new connections,” he said.
eThekwini Municipality mayor, Cllr Zandile Gumede, said, “We firmly believe that this flight will truly transform the Durban sklyline and landscape for tourism and investment. This brings a realisation of our visitor strategy which focuses on attracting visitors and investors from the UK and European markets to our city. This speaks to the city’s commitment in ensuring that Durban remains the gateway to Africa, a world-class destination and a hidden gem that will soon be revealed to the world.”
British Airways is offering a launch special from Durban with discounts of to 13% on return fares. The airline also flies twice-daily service from Heathrow to Johannesburg and daily to Cape Town year-round.
It doubles the Cape Town schedule during the South African summer season and also adds three weekly flights from Gatwick.
The route expansion comes as British Airways rolls out a £4.5 billion, five-year customer investment plan, with a focus on excellence in the premium cabins and more choice and quality for all its customers.