KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu is expected to announce today that Emirates Airlines plans to introduce an additional daily flight between Durban and Dubai before the end of the year.
Another Middle Eastern airline, Qatar Airways, has opened an office in Durban.
Tourism and aviation industry insiders expect an imminent announcement of Qatar’s new Durban-Doha route.
Several industry sources have confirmed that the second daily Emirates flight and Qatar Airways’ first are on the cards, but the airlines have remained tight-lipped.
Quizzed by The Mercury on the sidelines of the launch of the national tourism sector strategy in KwaDukuza yesterday, Mabuyakhulu said: “You have to wait, by tomorrow you will hear.”
The MEC will be introducing his budget vote today.
“I cannot say anything, but it is worthy to note that Emirates’ daily route from Durban has been successful, with passenger load factors of more than 75 percent,” he said.
“There has also been keen interest from another Middle East-based airline as well as other international carriers.”
Vuwani Ndwamato, the Department of Transport’s director of air transport, said South Africa had signed an agreement with the Qatari government in November that allowed Qatar Airways further air access rights.
“The agreement allows Qatar Airways to increase its weekly flights from seven to 28. This makes way for 14 flights a week from Joburg, seven from Durban and seven from Cape Town,” Ndwamato said.
“However, they have daily flights to Joburg and the agreement states that they can access the further slots in Joburg only after they take slots in Durban and Cape Town.
“When they take up the slots is up to them and will be based on a business case for the route.
“With these new agreements, we are trying to incentivise international airlines to establish routes out of Durban and Cape Town.”
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said he was aware that Emirates was looking at a second daily flight to Durban.
“We need more air access into South Africa to support the growth of the tourism industry,” he said.
“This issue regarding air access is seen as one of the main inhibitors to tourism growth. As part of our new National Tourism Sector Strategy we aim to deal actively with this problem.”