Some fare bargains are still available
ALTHOUGH there are signs that international passenger numbers are beginning to rise, there are still some fare bargains available.
Middle Eastern airline Etihad, which now flies to Cape Town, is offering special fares from both here and Johannesburg. Tickets that can be booked from now until November 30 are London from R4 895, Bangkok from R4 434 and Manchester, Istanbul and Athens from R5 000 “inclusive of all pre-payable taxes, surcharges and levies.”
In view of the size of taxes nowadays, this is an important concession but presumably “prepayable” does not include the high departure taxes charged at some airports.
A new codeshare agreement between SAA and Air New Zealand wil l mean s mo o t h e r c o n n e c t i o n s between the two airlines. SAA passengers on its daily flights from Johannesburg to Perth will have a smooth transfer there to Air New Zealand’s flights to Auckland and on to Wellington and Christchurch, and will be able to earn points on S A A’ s Vo y a g e r loyalty programme for the entire journey. SAA will have a share of the ticket money it is paying for the New Zealand leg of the trip. Air New Zealand passengers wil l c odeshare on SAA’s flights from Perth and its domestic flights on to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. There are likely to be a great many of them doing so during the soccer World Cup next June.
Jason Krause, business development manager at SAA, said there were more than 41 000 South Africans living in New Zealand, and 12 000 passengers f rom New Zealand visited South Africa last year. In the year to June, 23 000 South Africans flew to New Z e a l a n d – many t o s e e friends and family.
SAA has stepped up its flights to Perth in time for Christmas this year, easing the usual shortage of seats on the route at that time.
But, because it flies there only from Johannesburg, most Capetonians are likely to continue flying to Australia with Singapore Airlines or Malaysia Airlines, both of which fly here and offer flights to several cities in Australia and New Zealand from their home airports.
Singapore Airlines offers flights to Sydney in its giant Airbus A380, and from March next year, Vi r gi n Australia will enter our market, offering direct flights from Johannesburg to Melbourne. Bookings are already open.
Meanwhile, S AA h a s increased the number of its flights to African destinations. Those between Johannesburg and Dar-esSalaam have increased from seven a week to nine, with t he t wo additi onal f l i ghts on Saturdays and Sundays. Those between Johannesburg and Windhoek have gone up from 14 a week to 20, with a new schedule aimed at bus i nes s t r a v e l l e r s . T he route is also flown by Air Namibia, whose flights continue from Johannesburg to Lusaka. SAA’s flights to Accra, capital of Ghana, have gone up from four a week to a daily service. Africa is still SAA’s most profitable market, despite facing increased competition on some routes.
UK passenger departure tax
Less good news is that the UK has increased its passenger departure tax by about £10 to £60 despite requests by airlines and its own tourism marketing authority, Visit Britain, to reduce it. The strength of the pound against the rand means that, although exchange rates fluctuate, it is still a considerable extra expense for South Africans in addition to the cost of a visa.
Not surprisingly, even before this increase the tax has led to a drop in tourism to the UK – something that should be borne in mind if Airports Company, South Africa, (Acsa) is allowed to increase its airport charges by 133% to help pay the R15 billion cost of improving and enlarging our airports in time for the soccer World Cup.These improvements include R7bn for the new airport in Durban, which only two international airlines – Emirates and Air Mauritius, say they will use.
Others, including SAA, say it would not be cost effective for their incoming international flights to go on to Durban from Johannesburg because safety regulations mean there would have to be a complete crew change for the short additional flight.