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Just months after launching direct flights from Manzini to Johannesburg, the first Eswatini Air flight from Manzini landed at King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

A 50-seater aircraft with dignitaries on board landed on Friday, signalling the start of its operations in KwaZulu-Natal. Eswatini Air will fly three times a week.

The airline’s CFO, Amos Mkhwatsha, said this route would build on the success of the Johannesburg route launched in March.

“The numbers have been promising in Joburg as its quite a busy route. We hope this would be replicated here,” he said.

While motivation was driven by business travellers in Joburg, the Manzini-Durban route favours tourism.

“During the festive season you would be amazed at the Swazi tourists who flock to Durban. There are also families scattered between the two and cultural commonalities as well, ” said Mkhatshwa.

The spike in road accidents coupled with disrepair counted favourably in favour of these routes.

He maintained the price to fly to Durban was cost-effective. A single ticket is about R1,400.

Asked if this initiative would be commercially viable as some airlines have buckled under tough operation costs, Mkhatshwa said they were up to the challenge.

“This initiative belongs to amaSwati. We are a national airline. We are confident that we would do well. Some airlines may have taken shortcuts. We aim to be relevant by honouring our clients,” he argued.

The airline is also connects to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Plans are on the cards for a Swaziland to Cape Town route.

Board chair Mndeni Mazibuko, who broke into song before addressing guests resplendent in Swazi traditional attire, was over the moon at the launch.

He remained hopeful the flights would increase traffic between Durban and Manzini while bolstering tourism, leisure and trade between the two cities.

Moses Vilakati, minister of tourism & environmental affairs in Eswatini, was also full of praise.

He said his country boasted a vast array of tourism offerings and was gearing up to host the Bushfire Festival which draws more than 50,000 revellers over the week.

The event earned a feather in its cap when listed as one of the best African events by CNN.

“It has grown in leaps and bounds. It’s one of the events where people put on their dancing shoes,” said Vilakati.

His KwaZulu-Natal counterpart, MEC Siboniso Duma, also expressed optimism at the route.

“Its critical for us as the two countries have a rich history. This would boost tourism in different ways, ” said Duma.

The two nations would be able to tap into each others economies.

“There would be a knock-on effect as eThekwini sits in a coastal province. The airline would assist us, ” said Duma.

He also looked forward to the prospect of the airline flying more often which has been envisaged to start in June.

The devastating effect of the pandemic has called for the province to be flexible and accessible to trade and long-lasting job opportunities which would boost the economy.

King Shaka International Airport has recently restarted flights to Lusaka in Zambia.

The Eswatini Air launch coincides with the commemoration of Africa Month.

With Africa’s Travel Indaba set to begin in KZN on Tuesday, Duma said there was plenty in store for travellers and buyers.

“Despite the scepticism from some people over the Easter holidays, we are going to make sure that we boost the coffers. We expect the hospitality industry to benefit,” said Duma.

He added that robust Africa free trade should also take centre stage during the convention.

Councillor Phili Ndlovu, who stood in for eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, extended her well-wishes to the airline.

She vowed that the municipality would play its part in raising continuous awareness regarding the new route.

“We encourage the opening of new routes as it would create sustainable employment, ” said Ndlovu.

Source: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2023-05-05-eswatini-air-touches-down-in-the-zulu-kingdom/