King Shaka International Airport

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King Shaka International Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerDube Tradeport Corporation
OperatorAirports Company South Africa
ServesDurban, South Africa
LocationLa Mercy, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Hub forSA Express
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL93 m / 304 ft
Coordinates29°37.0′S 031°6.5′E / 29.6167°S 31.1083°E / -29.6167; 31.1083Coordinates: 29°37.0′S 031°6.5′E / 29.6167°S 31.1083°E / -29.6167; 31.1083
DUR is located in Durban
Location in the Durban metropolitan area
Direction Length Surface
m ft
06/24 3,700 12,139 Asphalt
Statistics (Apr 2017-Mar 2018)
Passenger traffic5,624,170
Aircraft movements54,066

King Shaka International Airport (IATA: DUR, ICAO: FALE), abbreviated KSIA, is the primary airport serving Durban, South Africa. Located in La Mercy, KwaZulu-Natal, approximately 35 km (22 mi) north of the city centre of Durban, it opened its doors to passengers on 1 May 2010, just over a month before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It replaced Durban International Airport (ICAO: FADN) and uses the same IATA airport code.[3] The airport was designed by Osmond Lange Architects and Planners and cost R6,800,000,000[4][5] (about US$900 million[6]). In spite of the high costs, the airport was designed without a viewing deck and travelators.[7]

Although the larger airport was built to grow the area's international services, it is also a key airport for domestic services throughout South Africa, serving the "Golden Triangle" between Cape Town International Airport (IATA: CPTICAO: FACT), O. R. Tambo International Airport (IATA: JNB, ICAO: FAOR) in Johannesburg, and KSIA itself with 7 airlines. KSIA was the 9th busiest airport in Africa according to 2010 statistics, despite not being open for the first four months.[citation needed]

The airport forms part of the Dube TradePort, which will additionally consist of a trade zone linked to the airport's cargo terminal, facilities to support the airport such as nearby offices and transit accommodation for tourists, an integrated agricultural export zone, and an IT platform.[8]

The largest aircraft KSIA currently has scheduled services for is the Boeing 777-300ER, with both Emirates operating Dubai–Durban & Qatar Airways operating Doha–Durban, despite the fact that KSIA's runway length and terminal were designed to theoretically handle regular large airliners. In September 2015, during the World Routes Conference which was held in Durban (the first time on African soil), Turkish Airlines announced a new international service to Istanbul[9] and Qatar Airways announced the commencement of service to Doha in December of that year.[10]

On 27 January 2014 the world's largest passenger aircraft, an Airbus A380-800 of British Airways landed at KSIA becoming the first A380 to do so. The aircraft was being used for training and operated many flights in and out of the airport until 4 February 2014. The aircraft also returned for further pilot training between 29 August and 1 September the same year.[11]


Project conception and initial construction[edit]

Construction of the passenger terminal in August 2009
The passenger terminal under construction on 28 August 2009, taken from the air side and showing the domestic airbridges

King Shaka International Airport was first conceptualised in the 1970s, with construction beginning in 1973. By 1975, earthworks and a storm drainage system had been completed. However, the project was halted in 1982 due to the economic slowdown at the time.[4]

The project was revived in the late 1990s when the limitations of Durban International Airport became apparent.[4] The airport's 2,400 m (7,874 ft) runway was too short to allow large aircraft such as the Boeing 747 to operate intercontinental routes out of Durban, and the resulting decrease in international air traffic caused Durban to become marginalised with respect to Johannesburg and Cape Town.[12] Upgrading Durban International Airport was considered but a study published in 2007 found that the existing airport would still have serious constraints and would reach its maximum potential by 2025, after which there would be no choice but to develop KSIA.[13] It was also found that it would be 95% more expensive to operate Durban International Airport to its full potential and only then develop KSIA, than it would be to develop KSIA immediately.[13] However, disputes between Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and the Dube Tradeport firm (which is backed by the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provincial government) stalled the project until national transport minister Jeff Radebe intervened to jump-start the project in 2004.[14]

The project was then hit by a tender war between the Illembe consortium (led by Group Five and Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon) and the Indiza consortium (led by Grinaker-LTA). Both consortia pre-qualified for the tender in April 2006; however, the tender was awarded to the Illembe consortium, with the Indiza consortium not being considered for failing to meet certain tender requirements.[15] The Indiza group appealed the decision, claiming that the correct tender process had not been followed and that their bid had been unfairly excluded;[15][16] however, their legal challenge was dismissed by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in February 2007.[17]

The final obstacle was a delay in the approval of the project's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.[4] The EIA was eventually approved in August 2007; conditions attached being the appointment of an environmental control officer, issues of access from the nearby N2 freeway, and fauna and flora issues; in particular, the impact of construction and airport operations on a nearby colony of barn swallows.[18]

Construction of the airport commenced on 24 August 2007, immediately after the approval of the EIA.[19] Construction progressed steadily throughout the next two years, with operational testing of the airport beginning in December 2009.[20] The airport handled its first commercial flights on 1 May 2010.[21]

It is unclear what the fate of the existing Durban International Airport will be now that KSIA is complete. While it was originally expected that the airport would be decommissioned and the site (in a prime industrial area) would be redeveloped, possibly as a dug-out port serving nearby automotive assembly and components factories,[22] Comair has expressed interest in buying the existing airport and operating it as an alternative, secondary airport.[23]

Naming process[edit]

Despite wide expectations that the airport would be named "King Shaka International Airport" (Shaka was the leader of the Zulu nation in the early 19th century), it emerged in October 2009 that the airport needed to undergo a formal naming process.[24] The former premier of KZN, S'bu Ndebele, described the naming process as urgent, stating that "pilots cannot fly to a place with no name".[24] Public hearings on the naming of the airport began at the beginning of November 2009, with most attendees favouring "King Shaka International Airport" as the new airport's name.[25]

On 8 December 2009, it was reported that "King Shaka International Airport" was indeed the most popular name for the new airport.[26] The airport name was approved by the South African Geographical Names Council on 14 January 2010,[27] and became official on 2 February 2010 when the Minister of Arts and Culture gave final approval to the name.[25]

As of March 2010, information on future development at KSIA is scarce and conflicting. Long term master plans published on the Dube Tradeport website show projected phases of development in the future;[28] however, images of future development posted on an internet forum indicate five phases of development, with each phase to be developed based on annual passenger volumes reaching certain levels.[citation needed] Both sources of information agree that the airport would have two parallel runways with the passenger terminal building having an estimated capacity for 45 million passengers per year in the future.


KSIA is currently building two new heavy class remote gates which will be named Foxtrot gates


The airport is located in La Mercy, KwaZulu-Natal, approximately 35 km (22 mi) north of Durban. The airport precinct is bordered by the M43 to the north, the Mdloti River to the south, the R102 to the west, and the N2 freeway to the east.

Neighbouring communities are Cottonlands and the LIV village at Hazelmere Dam Wall to the west, Tongaat to the north-west, Verulam to the south-west, and Umdloti to the south-east. Notable communities further away are Umhlanga to the south and Ballito to the north. These communities are generally opposed to the airport because of noise concerns,[29] recommendations for mitigation of which were made in the project's Environmental Impact Report.[30]

Mount Moreland barn swallows[edit]

Mount Moreland, a small community located 2.6 km (1.6 mi) south of the airport, is an important roosting site for the European barn swallow.[31] The roughly 250 m2 (299 sq yd) reed bed where the birds roost is directly underneath the approach path to runway 06. When the construction of the airport was announced, there were fears that the reed bed would have to be destroyed due to the perceived threat of bird strikes, creating concern amongst environmentalists.[31]

As a result, a study into the risks of bird strikes at KSIA was commissioned, with special attention being paid to the barn swallows at Mount Moreland. The study showed that the early morning dispersals of swallows generally happen before any scheduled arrivals or departures (earlier than 06:00), and the late afternoon swarms take place below the airport approach path, with only 5% of the birds protruding up into the path for a very short time (around 10 minutes).[32] It was also noted that larger bird species, flying at higher altitudes, would pose more of a risk to aircraft than the swallows, such species already being a risk at Durban International Airport.[32] The study concluded that it would definitely be possible for the airport and swallows to co-exist. Proposed risk mitigation measures included curtailing flight movements during the afternoon swarm, setting the glide slope approach to Runway 06 to 3.2 or 3.5 degrees rather than the standard 3 degrees (to stay above the birds), and the installation of a radar system that would monitor bird movements and be integrated into the operational plan of the airport.[32]

In response to the study, ACSA contracted De-Tect Inc. to install a radar system that would monitor all bird activity around KSIA, notifying air traffic controllers of any dangers to aircraft. The radar system arrived in January 2009 and started collecting data to be used when the airport became operational.[33][34]


Passenger terminal[edit]

The departures concourse of the passenger terminal
The departures concourse, showing the check-in islands and passengers checking in for their flights. Information is being displayed on LED and LCD display screens.

The passenger terminal is located at the southern end of the airport and is split into two levels: arrivals are handled on the lower floor, departures on the upper floor. With a total floor area of 102,000 m2 (1,100,000 sq ft), the terminal is capable of handling 7.5 million passengers per year.[35]

The check-in concourse, located on the upper floor, contains 72 check-in counters and 18 self-service kiosks, as well as ticket offices for the various airlines operating out of the airport. Passengers pass through separate domestic and international security checkpoints before proceeding to the departure lounges and boarding gates. The airport has 34 aircraft parking bays and 16 jet bridges. Four of the jet bridges (gates A20-A23) can be combined into groups of two to handle Code F aircraft (e.g. an Airbus A380) or can be used separately to handle four Code C aircraft (e.g. an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737). The remainder are capable of handling one Code C aircraft each.[35][36]

The arrivals area is located on the lower floor, with a baggage reclaim hall containing 5 conveyors that can be allocated between domestic and international use. Most of the airport's retail shops are also located on the lower floor, as well as a piazza area immediately outside the terminal building. Including shops in the departure lounges, the airport has 52 retail outlets and 6,500 m2 (70,000 sq ft) of retail space.[35]

The terminal does not have a public viewing deck, which has attracted public criticism.[37] There are, however, vantage points on the elevated departures drop-off-road, as well as elsewhere in the airport precinct.[38] The International Terminal is located to the left of the airport with two A380-800 docking bays in which four A330's can be parked.

Cargo terminal[edit]

The cargo terminal, taken from the land side
A view of the cargo terminal from the main access road leading to it, showing bays for goods vehicles and the reception area.

The cargo terminal is located to the north of the passenger terminal, and is in the approximate centre of the airport precinct. The cargo terminal will have an initial size of 15,000 m2 (160,000 sq ft) and initial capacity for 150,000 metric tons (165,000 short tons) of cargo per year. Long-term expansion could see the cargo terminal expand to a size of 100,000 m2 (1,100,000 sq ft) and capacity for 1,000,000 metric tons (1,100,000 short tons) of cargo per year.[39] In August 2009, Worldwide Flight Services was given a five-year contract to operate the cargo terminal.[40][41]

The cargo terminal will form one component of the Dube TradePort's TradeZone Precinct, which will additionally be home to trade and logistics warehousing as well as cargo and light industry activities that require quick access to air cargo services, and will cover an area of 36 hectares (89 acres).[42] In February 2013 Shree Property Holdings agreed to build a 60,000 m2 (650,000 sq ft) facility in the Dube TradeZone and an additional 15,000 m2 (160,000 sq ft) facility.[43] Samsung is to build a TV Production Plant at The Dube Trade Port by the end of 2014 estimated cost over three years will be $20 million. Increasing from 500 000 flatscreens to 1 million.

One of the objectives of the cargo terminal is to recapture local air freight traffic from JNB.[42] It is estimated that KwaZulu-Natal produces approximately 25,000 metric tons (27,600 short tons) of air cargo a year which is currently transported by road to Johannesburg.[44] The airport also has the advantage of sea level operation as opposed to Johannesburg's high altitude, and is also near the Port of Durban, the busiest seaport in the Southern Hemisphere.[45] The cargo terminal will initially have two Code F stands (capable of accommodating large aircraft, like the freighter variants of the Airbus A380), which can be expanded to ten stands in the long term.[13]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Air Mauritius Mauritius
Air Namibia Gaborone, Windhoek-Hosea Kutako1
Airlink Bloemfontein, East London, George, Maputo, Nelspruit
British Airways Cape Town, Johannesburg–O. R. Tambo, London–Heathrow, Port Elizabeth
Emirates Dubai–International
FlySafair Cape Town, East London,[46] Johannesburg-O.R. Tambo, Port Elizabeth[46] Cape Town, Johannesburg–Lanseria, Johannesburg–O.R. Tambo
Mango Cape Town, Johannesburg–Lanseria, Johannesburg–O.R. Tambo
Proflight Zambia Lusaka
Qatar Airways Doha2
South African Airways Johannesburg–O.R. Tambo
South African Express Johannesburg–O.R. Tambo, Port Elizabeth[47]
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk2 (ends 31 December 2018),[48] Istanbul–Havalimanı2 (begins 1 January 2019)[48]

1 Air Namibia have been granted 5th freedom rights and will service traffic between Gaborone and Windhoek.
2This flight operates via Johannesburg. However, the carrier does not have rights to transport passengers solely between Durban and Johannesburg.


BidAir Cargo Cape Town, Johannesburg–OR Tambo
Imperial Air Cargo Johannesburg–OR Tambo
Khuphuka Kings Lubumbashi, Ndola
South African Airways Cargo East London, Johannesburg–OR Tambo, Port Elizabeth

Traffic and statistics[edit]

King Shaka International Airport recorded 5.62 million passengers in 2017–2018, with the majority (5.25 million) being domestic passengers, 363,483 being international, and a small percentage of traffic being classified as "unscheduled". 54,066 aircraft traffic movements were recorded; the majority again being domestic services. The statistics place KSIA as the third busiest airport in South Africa, behind both OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airport.[49]

The following tables list passenger and air traffic statistics for King Shaka International Airport as published by Airports Company South Africa. Statistics run between April and March the following year.

Annual passenger traffic for King Shaka International Airport[1]
Year International Domestic Unscheduled Total
Passenger movements % Change Passenger movements % Change Passenger movements % Change Passenger movements % Change
2010–20111 179,744 Increase81.8% 4,672,960 Increase8.7% 20,867 Increase215.6% 4,873,571 Increase10.7%
2011–2012 201,037 Increase11.8% 4,828,631 Increase3.3% 10,426 Decrease50.0% 5,040,094 Increase3.4%
2012–2013 226,764 Increase12.8% 4,430,677 Decrease8.2% 11,026 Increase5.8% 4,668,467 Decrease7.0%
2013–2014 277,866 Increase22.5% 4,179,121 Decrease5.7% 8,101 Decrease26.5% 4,465,088 Decrease4.4%
2014–2015 294,852 Increase6.1% 4,222,226 Increase1.0% 7,816 Decrease3.5% 4,524,894 Increase1.3%
2015–2016 288,188 Decrease2.3% 4,632,085 Increase9.7% 9,882 Increase26.4% 4,930,155 Increase9.0%
2016–2017 356,234 Increase23.6% 4,854,489 Increase4.8% 9,279 Decrease6.5% 5,220,002 Increase5.9%
2017–2018 363,483 Increase2.0% 5,252,153 Increase8.2% 8,534 Decrease8.7% 5,624,170 Increase7.7%
Annual aircraft movements for King Shaka International Airport[2]
Year International Domestic Unscheduled Total
Aircraft movements % Change Aircraft movements % Change Aircraft movements % Change Aircraft movements % Change
2010–20111 1,460 Increase0.1% 49,623 Increase1.5% 3,635 Increase59.4% 54,718 Increase3.6%
2011–2012 1,404 Decrease3.8% 50,491 Increase1.7% 3,299 Decrease9.2% 55,194 Increase0.9%
2012–2013 1,739 Increase23.9% 43,875 Decrease13.1% 4,059 Increase23.0% 49,673 Decrease10.0%
2013–2014 2,134 Increase22.7% 42,928 Decrease2.2% 4,497 Increase10.9% 49,559 Decrease0.2%
2014–2015 2,216 Increase3.8% 42,325 Decrease1.4% 4,814 Increase7.1% 49,355 Decrease0.4%
2015–2016 2,132 Decrease3.8% 44,544 Increase5.3% 5,630 Increase17.0% 52,316 Increase6.0%
2016–2017 2,780 Increase30.4% 46,466 Increase4.3% 5,789 Increase2.3% 55,030 Increase5.2%
2017–2018 2,217 Decrease25.4% 46,480 Increase0.0% 5,369 Decrease7.8% 54,066 Decrease1.8%
  • ^1 Statistics for 2010–2011 include operations at Durban International Airport up to and including 30 April 2010. Comparisons are made with the previous reporting period's statistics at Durban International Airport.



A three-level interchange between the N2 national freeway and the M65 main road
The interchange of the N2 and M65

The airport is accessible from both the N2 freeway and the alternative R102 road, with the M65 linking the N2 at exit 195 and the R102 between Verulam and Tongaat with the airport. The M65 does not continue from the N2 interchange to the coastal M4 highway, necessitating M4 traffic to divert to the N2 using either the M27 if approaching from the south, or the M43 (Watson Highway) if approaching from the north; however, the airport's Environmental Impact Assessment recommended that the M65 should be extended to the M4 in the future should traffic volumes rise to the point where this would become necessary.[30] Another notable road in the vicinity of the airport is the R614 from the Albert Falls and Wartburg areas, which terminates at the R102 in the northern outskirts of Tongaat; users of the R614 access the airport via the R102.

The majority of routes to and from the airport via the N2 involve payment of a toll: traffic leaving the airport to the south (the direction of central Durban) must pass through the La Mercy Ramp Plaza located at the interchange of the N2 and M65,[50] while traffic arriving at and leaving the airport from the north (the direction of Ballito) must pass through the mainline Tongaat Toll Plaza located at the interchange of the N2 and M43. Motorists arriving from the south along the N2 are not tolled, and the R102 acts as an untolled alternative route. The N2 S from the airport can lead to the M4 S, which leads directly into the city.

The airport contains 6,500 public parking bays, both in a short-term parkade and in a shaded medium-term parking area.[51] Public road transport is provided by airport shuttle buses and metered taxis, which have been allocated their own pick-up and drop-off area adjacent to the terminal entrance to the international arrivals area.

Rail link[edit]

The main railway line heading north from Durban along the North Coast runs close to the R102. Direct rail access was provided for in the master plans, and is expected to be constructed after 2010 as part of the second phase of construction.[52] In 2014, talks of a new high-speed monorail between the city and the airport were put forward, with an expected start to construction set for 2017.[53]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 13 August 2009, a privately owned Yakovlev Yak-18T (registration ZU-BHR) performed an emergency landing on the then unfinished runway due to a fuel contamination issue, becoming the first aircraft to land at KSIA.[54][55]
  • On 5 August 2012, a 1time Airline McDonnell Douglas MD-83 (registration ZS-OPZ) operating flight T6-653 from Durban to Cape Town International Airport suffered an engine failure to the right-hand engine on the initial climb out of Durban. The crew successfully returned to Durban on the remaining engine with no injuries being reported. Debris from the failed engine caused the runway to be closed for 3 hours resulting in numerous flight delays.[56]


  • 2011 – 3rd Best Airport in Africa of the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International[57]
  • 2012 – 2nd Best Airport in Africa of the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International[58]
  • 2013 – 1st Best Airport in World Handling under 5 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards by Skytrax[59]
  • 2014 – 1st Best Regional Airport in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards by Skytrax[60]
  • 2014 – 2nd Best Airport in World Handling under 5 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards by Skytrax[59]
  • 2014 – 3rd Best Domestic Airport in World of the Skytrax World Airports Awards by Skytrax[59]
  • 2015 – 1st Best Airport in World Handling under 5 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards by Skytrax[59]
  • 2015 – 1st Best Regional Airport in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[60]
  • 2015 – 3rd Best Domestic Airport in World of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[59]
  • 2015 – 4th Best Regional Airport in World of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[60]
  • 2015 – 2nd Best Airport in Africa of the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International[61]
  • 2016 – 1st Best Regional Airport in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards
  • 2016 – 1st Best Airport in World Handling under 5 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards
  • 2016 – 2nd Best Airport in Africa of the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International[62]
  • 2017 – 1st Best Regional Airport in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[60]
  • 2017 – 2nd Best Airport in World Handling between 5 & 10 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[63]
  • 2017 – 1st Best Airport Staff in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[64]
  • 2018 – 1st Best Regional Airport in Africa of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[65]
  • 2018 – 1st Best Airport in World Handling between 5 & 10 Million Passengers of the Skytrax World Airports Awards[66]

See also[edit]


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  5. ^ "Osmond Lange Architects & Planners". Osmond Lange Architects & Planners. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  6. ^ Based on 1H2010 average exchange rate of R7.5:US$1 at OANDA
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  39. ^ Institute of Natural Resources (August 2007). "Chapter 4 – Overview of Dube Tradeport". Environmental Impact Assessment Report. Dube TradePort Environmental Impact Assessment Information Center.
  40. ^ Naidoo, Suren (27 August 2009). "New Dube terminal operator named" (fee required). The Mercury. Durban: IOL. p. 2. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  41. ^ "WFS to operate cargo terminal at new Durban airport". PressReleasePoint. 3 September 2009.
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  56. ^ "Incident: 1time MD83 at Durban on Aug 5th 2012, engine shut down in flight after contained engine failure". Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  57. ^ "2012 Winners". 15 November 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
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  65. ^
  66. ^

External links[edit]

Media related to King Shaka International Airport at Wikimedia Commons