King Shaka International is open


After years of controversy, planning and construction, KwaZulu-Natal’s new international airport has finally opened. The King Shaka International Airport at La Mercy, officially opened on May 1. It is situated about 35kms north of Durban’s city centre. It is the first greenfield (from scratch) airport to be built in the past 50 years in South Africa, and will be replacing the existing Durban International Airport. The cost of building and developing this airport has amounted to around R7,2bn.

The new airport is not only bigger than the old Durban Airport, it has also been developed in such a way that it has huge growth potential. The airport is able to process 7,5m people when it opens, which is expected to be increased to 45m by 2060. Provision has also been made for a second runway, while the current runway allows for the A380 and B747 to use the airport.

History of the airport

The new international airport at La Mercy has taken 40 years from the original land purchase of 2 100 hectares to be an operational entity. The final construction phase began on August 31, 2007. In the 1990s extensive research and analysis was done but, in July 2006, it was finally concluded that the Durban International Airport, even when fully developed, would not provide enough capacity for the region.

Passenger terminal building

The passenger terminal building consists of four levels that have a combined area of 102 000sqm.

*Arrivals hall, ground floor

The Arrivals Hall is a common entrance and exit with a ‘meet and greet’ area for all arriving passengers. The ground floor allows for easy access to the check-in hall. The car rental facilities and shade parking facilities can be accessed by two pedestrian subways from the arrivals hall.

Also on the ground floor, passengers will find a banking hall for local and foreign exchange transactions. An open air food and beverage court is situated directly adjacent to domestic/international arrivals.

*Departures hall, first floor

This hall consists of various public and non-public areas, including circulation and waiting areas, public facilities, airline ticket sales, service counters and check-in facilities for passengers and baggage.

The central check-in processing of both departing international and domestic passengers takes place here. There are four check-in islands, each made up of 18 check-in counters, totalling 72. Departing international passengers are processed through passenger screening machines situated at the northern end, while domestic passengers are facilitated at the southern side of the security central search points, from where they proceed to the boarding gates. There is a total of seven passenger screening points.

Access to the departures hall is through the ground floor of the passenger terminal building via the escalators, elevators or stairs provided. Passengers can also be dropped off on the elevated frontage road that leads directly into the departures hall. The official drop-off areas for departing passengers are situated on the elevated frontage road, which is a one-way running north to south.

*Airline lounges, second floor

There are three airline lounges situated on the second floor of the passenger terminal building. These are the SAA Business Class Lounge, BIDAir Hospitality Lounge and British Airways Comair Lounge. Apart from these, there is also an ACSA VIP Lounge.

Retail and food

One of the unique features of King Shaka International Airport is the Landside Piazza situated outside the passenger terminal building arrivals hall. The area comprises large open spaces with panoramic views of the landscaped boulevard, with a statue of King Shaka. The atmosphere of this area provides a space for relaxation. It is the home of various retail outlets. There is also a food court on the ground floor of the passenger terminal building offering various food and beverage options, and a banking hall nearby.

The future of DIA

After the last flight out of DIA, the airport will cease all commercial aviation activity. The facility will be handed over to the SA Air Force (SAAF) for the duration of the Soccer World Cup and thereafter it will be decommissioned. During the Soccer World Cup there will be no commercial aviation activity at DIA.

The SA Roads Agency (SANRAL) will be developing a toll near King Shaka International Airport. Travellers coming to the airport from the south will not pay a toll, but travellers leaving the airport going south on the N2 will.



BA Comair



SA Airlink

SA Express



Air Mauritius


<Car rental operators>







Easy Hire


Dollar Thrifty



 Old vs New




Runway length



Terminal area

30 000 sqm

102 000sqm

Air bridges



Public parking bays

2 490

6 500

Aircraft parking bays



Passenger numbers

4,4m per annum

7,5m per annum

Check-in counters



Car rentals



Common-use self-service kiosks (CUSS)




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