By Selene Brophy
Cape Town – Qatar Airways has inaugurated its newly launched Durban-Doha route, as part of an expansion of the airline’s operations and decade-long investment in South Africa.
The new route will see a four-times-weekly flight between the two cities, with a total of 21 flights a week now connecting South Africa to Qatar Airways’ global network.
The Durban-Doha route is in addition to existing daily flights from Cape Town, and double-daily flights from Johannesburg, directly to Hamad International Airport (hia), Doha, with connecting service to hundreds of destinations worldwide.
In the last 6 months 5 new carriers have announced Durban as a new destination; 2 of them are already flying with Turkish Airlines launching last week and Proflight (Zambia) in September. Durbanites will now enjoy access to Doha, Istanbul and Addis Ababa, as well as an abundance of cities beyond those hubs.
At a media briefing held in Durban to mark the event, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said, “As Durban continues to flourish, Qatar Airways wants to provide visitors to the city with the best service so that their journey is part of the experience”.
While the flight connects from Johannesburg, a delink is expected later in 2016 for a direct route. Considering SA’s volatile domestic market with limited load factor and poor inter-connectivity as a whole across Africa, Baker said, “Competition is always better” and that the African market has been “starved for air services”.
Baker responded to questions on the Yamoussoukro Decision for an Open Skies Africa policy that has been in the balance for a number of years now saying, “Airlines have been taking African passengers to the cleaners and Qatar is ready to offer better service and a higher standard of product.”
Added to this Baker said the huge potential of the aviation industry as an economic driver was not being utilized by the African governments and that this was not the business strategy of Qatar.
“My country is one of the richest countries in the world yet aviation contributes 5% directly to its GDP, showing what an important role it is for economic development.”
Qatar as one of South Africa’s largest trading partners in the middle east, the new route further strengthens the bond between the two countries, especially in the tourism sector.”
Baker said, “With its excellent aviation infrastructure and the development of the Dube Tradeport, there are tremendous opportunities for further growth in Durban and South Africa.”
The premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province, Senzo Mchunu, welcomed Qatar Airways saying, “Direct long haul air services from Durban will continue to be very important for our province as they serve as the lifeblood of our economy, by opening up new markets for our goods around the world and delivering tourists to our shores.
The MEC for Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Michael Mabuyakhulu added, “We greatly welcome Qatar Airways new flight service between Doha and our state-of-the-art King Shaka International Airport. This move is in line with our ambitious plans of developing an aviation inspired conurbation, the Durban aerotropolis, as a catalyst towards the stimulation of growth to unleash considerable business and employment opportunities for the people of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa.”