Cape Town - Cape Town International Airport is expecting to hit the 10-million passenger mark before the end of the year - a massive milestone for the airport that has seen a plume of direct connectivity take off in 2016.
The growth is largely attributed to the Western Cape's Cape Town Air Access initiative, said to have injected R3-billion into the province's economy through its initiation of six new direct routes to the mother city since 2015.
By securing six new routes and eight route expansions into the province, the initiative has resulted in an increase in the Western Cape's air arrivals of more than 500 000 passengers.
On Thursday evening, Ethiopian Airlines celebrated the 1 December 2016 launch of its increased flight frequency to Cape Town to 10 times per week.
This after the route connecting Addis Ababa and Cape Town launched just over a year ago, on 30 June 2015, with only six scheduled flights to Cape Town.
SEE: Cape Town Air Access awarded for 78% direct capacity increase in 2016
According to Abel A Yimer, regional manager for Ethiopian Airlines to South Africa, the airline is excited about its role as a change agent for Africa, as the largest African passenger network, connecting more than 54 African destinations, having recently added Windhoek.
Added to this, the airline says it is especially proud of its long-service to South Africa, which has seen 400% capacity growth over the last 10 years ago. Ethiopian Airlines is said to be the fastest growing and most profitable airline in Africa. In 2014, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) ranked Ethiopian as the largest airline in Africa in revenue and profit.
Change agent for air connectivity across Africa
But the 2025 Vision does not end there, as there is a R380m airport expansion plan in the pipeline in a totally different location to the current Addis Abba International Airport. The airline also has the new A350 on order to add to its very young fleet, which is an average age of 5-years-old per aircraft, with some 82 aircraft in operation.
Marking the expansion to the Mother City, Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said, "The increase in flight frequencies from Ethiopian Airlines is a welcome addition that strengthens the Western Cape’s ties to one of the fastest growing African markets and proves the popularity of Cape Town as a destination of choice for international travellers.”
Apart from Cape Town, the airline also flies to SA's other major airports like King Shaka International in Durban and OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. Some of the increased flights to Cape Town will have a stop over in Johannesburg en route to and from Addis Ababa.
The complete new flight schedule to Cape Town International looks as follows:
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In total, the Cape Town Air Access team has assisted in establishing five new routes and expanding three existing routes. These comprise new flights from Airlink to Maun, Botswana; Kenya Airways to Nairobi, Kenya and Livingstone, Zambia; British Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines to London Gatwick; and Lufthansa to Frankfurt. Frequency increases have also been introduced by Emirates Airline and KLM.
Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, previously confirmed the new routes have resulted in a 78% additional seats being added in 2016. Increasing air access is a key priority for the Western Cape’s jobs and growth strategy.
“Through Project Khulisa, we have prioritised air access; we know we have to make it easier for visitors to travel to our region. This is why we launched the Cape Town Air Access initiative, which is a partnership between government, Airports Company South Africa, Wesgro and airline industries. Through this initiative, we are seeking to secure additional direct flights to a set of strategic destinations across the world. We know that improving accessibility to our region through more direct flights is crucial to growing jobs,” said Minister Winde.