A high level UAE delegation threw its weight behind Emirates' latest destination yesterday by flying into South Africa's port city of Durban aboard the airline's maiden flight.
His Excellency Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, the UAE Minister of Economics, led the delegation aboard EK 775, which arrived to a water canon salute and enthusiastic onlookers at Durban International Airport.
Amongst those joining the inaugural flight were Saif Salem Al Humrani of the UAE Ministry of Economics; Mohamed Mahgoub, Director, Administrative Affairs, Dubai Chamber of Commerce; Yaser Sharaf, Managing Director, Sharaf DG; The Rt. Honourable Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu, Member of Kwa Zulu Natal's Executive Council for Economic Development & Tourism; Nigel Page, Emirates' Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Americas & Africa; Ahmed Khoory, the airline's Senior Vice President, GCC, Middle East and Iran and Peter Sedgley, Emirates' Senior Vice President, Cargo Commercial Operations.
Media representatives from around the UAE were also onboard the 278-seat Airbus A330-200 as it headed towards the carrier's 17th African destination and one of the host cities for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.
Mr Al Mansoori said: "This is an important development for Dubai, for Emirates Airline and for the United Arab Emirates as a whole. South Africa is an important trading partner for the UAE and to have another gateway into the country will further strengthen our trading relationship and provide a new channel for growth. I am sure it will also be very much appreciated by the thousands of South Africans who live and work in Dubai and make an important contribution to our economic progress. I wish Emirates and the province of Kwa Zulu Natal the very best of luck with this non-stop service."
The Rt. Honourable Sibusiso Ndebele, South Africa's Transport Minister, said: "Today is, indeed, a historic day for civil aviation in the Republic of South Africa. This inaugural flight of Emirates Airline is the culmination of negotiations between our two governments since 2007. With the introduction of Emirates Airline to Durban, the people of Kwa Zulu Natal are now able to reach more than 100 global destinations, and similarly more than 100 points of the globe are now able to reach the wonderful city of Durban."
Mr Ndebele added: "Leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we will ensure that Emirates Airline is well supported in its provision of air services to the three key hubs of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban for the World Cup. Our government’s vision and promise is to ensure that we deliver quality services to all. As such, it is perhaps a clear reflection of this commitment that in a few months from now, leading international air carriers, including Emirates Airline, will enjoy operating to and from our brand new international airport being built at La Mercy in Durban. We wish Emirates Airline all the best in this new venture."
The value of trade between the UAE and South Africa is in the region of AED 7 billion per annum. Last year, the UAE exported AED 3.7 billion worth of goods, according to figures from South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry. Imports to the UAE from South Africa totalled AED 3.1 billion for the same period - gold and steel being amongst them.
Emirates becomes the only carrier operating out of Durban to offer international flights on a daily basis, a major boost for tourism and trade as the city moves towards its FIFA World Cup obligations and its host city status.
Nigel Page, Emirates' Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Americas & Africa, who spoke at a welcoming reception after touching down, said: "This is a great moment for Emirates, for Dubai and for Durban. A great deal of work has gone into extending our South Africa services to this important city, which like Dubai is a trading hub. By linking these two places with our daily flight, we are already seeing the benefits for business, tourism and trade. Thousands of people from the UK for example, one of our key markets for South Africa, are already booked to come to Durban. I'd like to say a special thank you to all those in South Africa, from government departments to our partners in the travel industry, for making this happen."
Joining the welcoming reception in Durban were The Rt. Honourable Sibusiso Ndebele, South Africa's Transport Minister, His Excellency Zweli Mkezi, Premier of KZN; His Excellency Ismael Obaid Al Ali, UAE Ambassador to South Africa; Anwar Gany, Chief Director of Civil Aviation in the Department of Transport; Ahmed Bassa, Chairman of the Aviation Licensing Committee, plus a host of other commercial guests and government officials.
Durban's province of Kwa Zulu Natal is a popular destination for tourists, boasting captivating wildlife and some of the continent's most talked about game reserves. Hundreds of kilometres of subtropical beaches line the Indian Ocean coastline.
The port of Durban is the busiest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world. The facility handles 50 per cent of South Africa's bulk cargo and exports, including coal, granite, sugar, maize, motor vehicles and many other South African products. Emirates SkyCargo has set up a base in the city to support trade by offering up to 13 tonnes of cargo capacity on each flight.
To mark the start of services to Durban, the airline is offering Business Class passengers travelling up until 24th December two complimentary night's accommodation in a standard room at Durban's Southern Elangeni Hotel. The deal covers single or double room occupancy, buffet breakfast and complimentary activity vouchers.
Flight EK775 departs Dubai at 1025hrs, arriving at Durban International Airport at 1710hrs. EK 776 leaves Durban at 1840hrs and gets into Dubai at 0520hrs. The Airbus A330-200, which serves the route, is arranged in a two-class configuration with a flight time of around 8hrs 45 minutes.
Emirates Airline already flies three times a day to Johannesburg and daily to Cape Town. On October 25th, the airline further extends its network in Africa by launching flights to Luanda, Angola.
© 2000 - 2021 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)