When you think of an international airport, you generally think of a place bustling with people and several flights to many destinations. I visited King Mswati III to see it empty, serving only 4 flights a day, all to the same destination. Join me as I find out why this airport was so empty, and if it will ever see more flights…

The controversy behind the airport’s creation

The airport was created by King Mswati III of Eswatini, a small nation in Africa sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa, formerly known as Swaziland. He claimed that airlines from across the world wanted to use the nation’s only airport, but in 2018 the country’s civil aviation authority admitted that no new airlines wanted to fly to the airport, and things haven’t changed. Currently, the only airline flying to King Mswati III is South African airline Air Link, flying their 4-times-daily rotation to Johannesburg. Those are the only flights at the airport. Many people show that the airport represents the King’s corruption as it was built using lots of the country’s money and yet hasn’t been delivered as promised.

The airport has surprisingly few passengers, despite the King’s promise.

Why is it so empty?

With Eswatini being the smallest country in the southern hemisphere, many passengers find it easier and cheaper to drive rather than fly, despite it taking slightly longer. According to Google maps, flying from the airport to O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg takes just over an hour, and that doesn’t take into account security and immigration which would take around 2 hours in total. Driving the same route takes just under 5 hours, meaning there’s only a 2-hour difference, a time which most people will choose as it is less expensive.

The airport still remains empty, even with the few flights which connect it to South Africa.

Is there hope in store for the airport?

Luckily, there are more flights in store for the airport, with a new national airline flying to destinations across Southern Africa from the airport to bring in more money and tourists for the country. The airline, Eswatini Air, purchased a pair of Embraer E145s to serve their routes. Eswatini air will be flying to destinations such as Johannesburg and Cape town in South Africa, and others in Botswana and Namibia. The airline is set to start operating flights later this year.

Eswatini Air will begin operations with a pair of Embraer E145s in late 2022 (credit: thekingdomofeswatini.com)

Whilst the airport remains desolated, it looks like there is some good news in store for the small nation, as their connectivity to other nations begins to expand.

Sources:

  • bloomberg.com
  • ch-aviation.com
  • renac.co.sz
  • mg.co.za

By Sam Jakobi

I am a young Avgeek who has been interested in aviation since the age of around 3 or 4. I run a very small youtube channel in which I review flights and explain common things in the aviation industry.

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