Advice for travellers

King Shaka International Airport

Throughout each year, as tourists flock to the golden beaches of South Africa's "Surf City", the containers roll in and out of the country's biggest port. Durban's new air thoroughfare for this traffic: King Shaka International Airport.

South Africa's newest international airport became operational on 1 May 2010. The last flight out of the old Durban International Airport – now too small to handle the growing tourist and commercial trade through Durban – took place on 30 April 2010.

to Airports Company South Africa The R7.9-billion greenfield airport, South Africa's second-largest transport infrastructural project after the Gautrain rapid rail link, is situated at La Mercy, 35 kilometres north of Durban.

In 2012, King Shaka International was named the third best airport in Africa in the World Airport Awards, coming in after Cape Town International and OR Tambo.

Bigger, better

Named after the great 19th century Zulu warrior-king, King Shaka International Airport represents a major expansion over Durban International, with huge growth potential.

With 102 000mē of floor area in its passenger terminal building, King Shaka currently handles around 5-million passengers but has the capacity to handle 7.5-million passengers annually, with room for significant future expansion.

Its 3.7-kilometre runway can accommodate the world's largest aircraft, including the double-decker Airbus A380, with provision for future construction of a second runway.

It also boasts 34 aircraft parking bays, 16 air bridges, 72 check-in counters, 18 self- service kiosks, 52 retail outlets, more than 6 500mē of retail space, and 4 500 vehicle parking bays, including a multistorey parkade, shaded bays and long-term facilities.

The passenger terminal building incorporates the latest design concepts to make passenger movement from arrival (lower floor) to departure (upper floor) as smooth and pleasant as possible.

And for those passing through, King Shaka International offers the full range of banking, forex and car rental services that one would expect of a world-class airport, along with a wide choice of restaurants, bars and duty-free shops.

Airlines operating at the airport are: Emirates Airlines and Air Mauritius (flying international routes), along with South African Airways, SA Express, SA Airlink, Mango Airlines, Interlink Airlines, Kulula Air, BA Comair and 1Time.

Dube Tradeport

King Shaka International was built as an integrated passenger and freight airport alongside the new Dube TradePort, which incorporates a 36-hectare trade zone featuring a 15 800mē cargo terminal, perishables centre, and warehousing and light manufacturing facilities.

The fully mechanised and automated cargo terminal – only the second of its kind in Africa – offers state-of-the-art airfreight handling facilities, and has the long-term capacity of processing up to two-million tons a year.

Dube Tradeport will also incorporate a 12-hectare support zone housing office complexes, business parks, hotels and conference facilities; an 80-hectare agri-zone for growing export-quality perishables; and an electronic trading platform or "cyber-port" to facilitate technology-enabled transactions, trade and transport.

Bird radar

King Shaka International Airport also boasts an environmental "world first" in the form of a bird radar system, directly linked to its control tower, that provides real-time information on bird movements near its runway to rule out potentially hazardous situations.

This is the first time that such a system has been installed at a commercial airport, and was prompted by the presence, about 1km south-west of the end of King Shaka's runway, of the Mount Moreland reedbed.

The European barn swallow breeds in Europe and travels to southern Africa, where it stays from October until April. Every year, an estimated three-million swallows – about eight percent of the total European population – roosts in the Mount Moreland reedbed.

The huge number of birds landing to roost at dusk and leaving to forage at dawn makes for a spectacular natural event – as well as a potential air-strike hazard. King Shaka International's bird radar strikes the balance between commercial air safety and due care for the environment.

SAinfo reporter
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King Shaka International Airport

Construction at the King Shaka International Airport, December 2009 (Photo: Airports Company South Africa)

King Shaka International Airport prepares for its opening

Simulation exercises take place in preparation for the opening of King Shaka International Airport, January 2010 (Photo: Airports Company South Africa)

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