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If you think that Port Elizabeth has few & expensive flights to Durban, spare a thought for their neightbours living in East London. There are SA Express and only SA Express flights from East London to Durban (Port Elizabeth to King Shaka has SA Express as well as British Airways Comair). And unfortunately along with a monopoly over a flight route comes monopoly airfares.
Flights are from the small East London Airport (ELS) to the larger and newer King Shaka International Airport (DUR), which is situated to the north of Durban's city centre, and in close proximity to the attractive beach resort towns of Umhlanga, Ballito and Salt Rock.
Use the airline price comparison tool on the left to compare flight prices on various dates. Your other options for cheap travel are to go by intercity bus or hire a car (see below).
If you're finding It hard to find cheap flights from East London to Durban, you're not alone. Timothy Johnson wrote to us to say: "I stay in East London and am needing to go to Durban for a weekend. I was shocked to see that the return flight would cost me R3500. I usually check the cost of domestic flights against the cost of driving (using the distance and AA rate to come up with a number). For the first time ever, with only one person in the car, it actually comes out CHEAPER for me to drive. I am left with the crazy situation of choosing to "save" the time I would have spent in the car and spending the extra R1000 on the flight. What is going on?! How can these flights possibly be so expensive when it costs around R8000 or R9000 to fly all the way to London?...It just surprises me the prices we pay for flights in SA. I flew through the low cost carrier terminal in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, and the idea made such a lot of sense to me. ACSA airports are great - but the taxes and surcharges? Crazy."
My thoughts on why airfares from East London to Durban are so high: First, Timothy I absolutely agree with you that the airfares on the ELS-DUR flight route are scary high. Paying so much for travel leaves one's wallet looking pretty thin on arrival at King Shaka, and not much left to spend on funsunzi and KZN curries. Secondly, thank goodness for SA Express - without them there wouldn't be any airlines flying the route. And that is really the main part of the problem, that there is only one airline flying the route. If there was more competition, this would force airfares down. For instance, we saw how low fares were in 2012 when in addition to the current airlines, 1time airlines and Velvet Sky were both flying. Since they began competing against each other in October 2013, we've seen SA Airlink and SA Express take each other on, on some of their flight routes (e.g. Cape Town to George). Unfortunately, East London to Durban is not one of them, but maybe that is because SA Airlink only has so many planes, and once it gets more it'll compete on this route.
It's not just supply of seats which impacts on the price, but also demand for seats. One of the reasons there may not be more airlines flying the route is because there are far fewer people wanting to fly from East London to Durban than from, say, Johannesburg to Cape Town (the 10th busiest flight route in the world). As soon as there is a monopoly situation on a flight route, monopoly prices are charged. The other dynamic at play is that the Rand has depreciated a lot, and this has led to the Rand price of aviation fuel increasing, as well as the cost of maintaining aircraft, which is denominated in US Dollars. Because of the increase in their cost-base, and the need to run a profitable operation, SA Express have gradually raised their airfares.
South African Express flights are scheduled to take 60 minutes.
As the Kingfisher flies, it is 492km from East London to Durban.
SA Express flights are in CR2s (Bombardier CRJ200), which carry 50 passengers. So, expect a smaller jet experience than if you were flying with the B737s of Kulula/BA/Mango.
Overland it is some 640km or 8 hours driving (or 90 hours by horseback, they would have said 200 years ago!). If you travel by intercity bus it'll take about 10 hours (assuming you don't take one of the options which go via Johannesburg, which turns it into a 28 hour trip!).
Assuming 2 hours wastage getting to and parking off in airports, you save about 5 hours by flying instead of driving.
There are a number of Intercity buses (or interstate, if you're from the US) which offer trips by road:
Greyhound offers coach bus trips from East London to Durban, leaving from Windmill Park, Moore Street; and arriving in Jeff Taylor Crescent, Mashabalala Yengwa Avenue (phone 011-611-8000). The route followed is through the Eastern Cape, and is scheduled to take 9 hours and 50 minutes.
Citiliner offers an overnight trip from East London to Durban through the Eastern Cape, leaving Windmill Park in East London (Moore Street) at 23h00 and arriving in Durban at 08h40 (1 Jeff Taylor Crescent, Mashabalala Yengwa Avenue). The trip takes 9 hours and 40 minutes.
The Intercape's East London to Durban route is via Johannesburg, typically taking a whopping 28 hours (phone 021-380-4400).
An interesting way of getting from East London to Durban is with the Baz Bus, whose main focus is on taking backpackers. So, expect to stop a lot along the way to drop off people at the various backpackers. Typical stops are Chintsa, Mthatha (possibly doing a loop inwards to Coffee Bay, Mpande & Port St Johns), Kokstad, Umtentweni, Umzumbe and Warner Beach. Hey, you might even find that you want to get off and visit some of the spots.
Whilst these options are slower than driving yourself, it does offer the opportunity to whip out the laptop (whilst the battery charges) and catch up on work, or a book and enjoy some reading - and hey, meet some folk on the bus - you'll have a longer time to acquaint yourself with them than on a plane.
If you prefer driving yourself, it is only 640km to drive from East London to Durban, travelling on the N2 national road via Butterworth, Qunu (stop off there to pay your respect to Nelson Mandela - it was both his birthplace as well as where he was buried), Mthatha (visit the Nelson Mandela Museum), Kokstad, Port Shepstone and Amanzimtoti.
Category : Flights, Author : Rob Baker, Date Published : 2014-02-17