KwaZulu-Natal’s Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone on Monday said airline company British Airways’ decision to cancel the direct flight between Durban and London will hamper the growth of international air services into the region post-Covid-19.
“As a route development committee, we understand the reasoning behind British Airways’ decision. The impact of Covid-19 and subsequent travel restrictions globally have resulted in low anticipated demand. It is therefore not unreasonable that an airline like British Airways reduces the routes in its network,” said Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone CEO Hamish Erskine.
According to reports, the airline company is set to suspend direct flights to 13 destinations in light of the decreased demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of 28 March, 2021, flights between the United Kingdom and the following destinations will halt: Durban, Pittsburg (USA), Charleston (USA), Calgary (Canada), Lima (Peru), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Osaka (Japan), Seoul (Republic of Korea), Dammam (Saudi Arabia), Abu Dhabi (UAE), and Muscat (Oman).
KZN MEC for economic development, Ravi Pillay, said he was confident that the route would be restored post-Covid-19.
“Our social and economic links to the UK are enduring. This will translate itself into continued demand for flights between Durban and London for tourism, trade and visits to friends and family,” said Pillay.
“British Airways’ decision should be seen in the broader context of an organisation that has worked hard to keep flying despite the pandemic affecting its entire global operations. This organisation has had to make extraordinary sacrifices, letting go of some 12 000 staff and retiring 31 aircraft. Meanwhile, the UK has just emerged from its second lockdown which has meant there simply aren’t that many people flying at the moment,” he added.
On Sunday, Business Insider reported that multiple countries had announced that they will be closing their borders to the UK over fears of a fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 which is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain. In order to stop its spread, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and surrounding areas would suddenly be plunged into lockdown.
Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has also suspended its two weekly flights to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban for the December-January holiday season in light of the pandemic.
Erskine said he was confident the province would survive as other airlines had expanded their routes.
“From a Durban direct route development committees’ perspective, we are confident in the resilience of the KwaZulu-Natal markets and their ability to sustain direct air services between Durban and London. Pre-Covid-19, British Airways experienced very strong load factors which were a testament to the demand for the route, supported by cargo volumes that were almost at capacity.
“The reality on the ground is that Durban remains connected with London by flights from Emirates, which has recently increased its frequency to four flights a week, and Qatar Airways.”