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King Shaka Airport 'has no soul'

2010-05-05 15:35
I went off for my first flight from King Shaka International Airport with a sense of anticipation and excitement - I had read all the good things in the press about how big and modern and great it was.

I left bitterly disappointed.

Let me explain. Ever since I was a little boy, when we went to fetch my aunt from the then Jan Smuts Airport in the seventies, the highlight for me was to go up to the viewing deck (open air in those days) and just let the excitement of jet travel seep into my little being.

I could hear them. I could see them. I could smell them. The sheer wonder of watching a 747 leaving the ground was as fascinating and impossible to me then, as it is to me now. The sheer power... And the fact that the airplane seemed to be crawling, not going fast enough, and yet it left the ground…

With my small family, the highlight for us going to Durban Airport was to go to the viewing deck, and watch the planes coming and going. I could show them the plane taking off, being pushed out , watch the man with the signals, watch passengers alighting and going on to the aircraft. What a buzz. I could see the passion for aviation in my kid’s eyes. We could then go to the Spur and watch the airport action while enjoying a meal. Hell, we’d even go to the airport to just hang out. It was cool.

As I left King Shaka after getting back from my trip I asked a question at the info kiosk “Where is the viewing deck?”  Answer: “I’m sorry sir, there is no viewing deck”. I could not believe it. No viewing deck.

King Shaka International is an airport where every effort is made to ensure that no-one even sees an aircraft. No passion, just a big shiny building that totally obscures the excitement of air travel from the visitors. It’s just not cool.

The restaurants are not even in the terminal building, but in a separate building! Why on earth would I want to visit the Cape Town Fish Market at the airport, in the middle of a glass house with nothing to see, when I can go to Ushaka and watch the beautiful ocean while I enjoy my meal?

So, in conclusion, I am disappointed. Because the joy of watching airplanes at an airport has been taken away from me and my family. I’m mad because I can never share the Durban International experience with my kids again. I’m cross because the airport is no longer a special, fun destination for a family of aviation enthusiasts. King Shaka is bigger, shinier, and more efficient than Durban was. Problem is it has no soul.

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