Bookings for flights to SA for soccer event ‘very healthy’
PESSIMISTIC reports in some sections of the UK press that high air fares would discourage most British soccer fans from flying to this country for the World Cup are not borne out by airlines. Ashley Cowan, British Airways (BA) regional manager for Africa, tells me bookings for the event are “very healthy”. He said that, in response to demand, BA would put on two extra flights to Johannesburg with Boeing 747400 aircraft on July 13 and 14, in time for the World Cup final. They would be in addition to the two flights a day to Johannesburg and one a day to Cape Town throughout our winter season.
He said bookings on flights out of South Africa were also high during the World Cup period. In addition to local residents who normally visited the UK and Europe during the northern hemisphere summer, many were leaving South Africa to escape the crowds and hype of the World Cup or because they had let their houses to foreign visitors for the period.
Caren Parkinson, marketing manager for Virgin Atlantic Airways in South Africa, said bookings to South Africa during the World Cup were “looking very full”.
But, although Virgin will have daily flights to Johannesburg throughout the winter it will, as usual, make a seasonal withdrawal from Cape Town. So will both the German airlines flying into Cape Town International Airport – Lufthansa and Air Berlin. All three say they will need their aircraft to meet the high demand for holiday travel in the northern hemisphere in June and July.
SAA has not yet f i nali s ed i t s f l i ght schedule for the World Cup period but, according to Vimla Maistry, its acting head of communications, it will run a 24-hour domestic service over the six weeks of the event, with early morning flights added to the normal ones between Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg “to ensure fans can watch the greatest football players in action”.
She said SAA would lease at least 13 additional aircraft, with flight crews, for Match, the agency making arrangements for accommodation and transport, and was “in discussion with some of our Star Alliance partners should we need more aircraft”.
On a less happy note, BA is currently facing a renewed threat of a possible strike by cabin crew, depending on the results of a ballot among trade union members that closes on February 22. A strike planned for the Christmas holiday period was declared illegal by the high court in London because former staff members who had accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy and had already left were among those voting for it.
Cowan said negotiations were continuing and it was “disappointing we have got to this stage” after concessions had been made. But even if the strike went ahead, most s er vi ces would continue because it was not expected to have the support of all cabin crew. There would also be volunteers from other departments of the airline – including some off-duty pilots – who were already being trained. “We are hoping that, if the strike goes ahead, there will be a very minimal number of flights cancelled.”
The ai r l i ne i ndustr y, worldwide, i s recovering from the effects of the recession following losses caused by the soaring oil price that preceded it.
BA was hit particularly hard by the fall i n i n t e r n a t i o n a l p a s s e n g e r n u mber s because of its large share of transAtlantic travel. But Cowan said that although it had “not quite got to the point of recovery, we have seen the worst.” Some of BA’s markets, including those in Africa, were already recovering. South Africa had always been a strong market for BA and passenger loads were good on both the Johannesburg and Cape Town routes at present.
He said that despite the worldwide dr o p i n pr e mium c l a s s i n t e r n a t i o n a l passenger numbers, BA’s “Open Skies” nonstop business flights from Paris to New York, and its business class flights to New York from London City Airport on a 32seater aircraft, were also doing well. The overnight flight from London City does, in fact, stop at Dublin’s Shannon Airport, where passengers go through US customs and emigration, before the nonstop flight to New York. The specially adapted aircraft has fully flat beds and the fact that the passengers have been through customs and emigration mean that they are treated as domestic passengers on arrival. Cowan said that when he flew on it he was out of the airport and entering a taxi within six minutes of disembarking.
South African Express (SAX), which is state-owned but not part of SAA, has become a partner in a new Congolese airline – Congo Express – which will start operating on two local routes within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from Tuesday (February 2). SAX, which will have 49% of the joint venture with an established Congolese company, BizAfrika Congo, will operate the new airline and carry out its maintenance.
SAX has built up a successful route from Johannesburg to Lubumbashi in the DRC on six days a week. Congo Express will f l y f r om Lubumbashi t o Kinshasa seven days a week and between Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi on four days. The next step, according to Didier Kindambu, managing director of Congo Express, will be to launch other domestic routes in the DRC then to expand into other African countries. Protectionism has so far prevented SAA from carrying out its long-held aim of building up a service connecting all major destinations in sub-Saharan Africa. SAX, under its present chief executive, Siza Mzimela, has developed from its former role of a feeder service for SAA into a fastgrowing regional airline, building a network of its own. NHU AFRICA has brought the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition to Cape Town.
Every year London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine begin a global search for the most outstanding creative visions of nature. This year the judges were faced with the tremendous task of selecting the top 95 winning photographs from a record-breaking 43 135 entries, from 94 countries.
“While there is no magic formula for winning and no hard-and-fast rules to explain why one photograph wins and another doesn’t, all winning shots have one thing in common – originality. The judges are looking for something that stops them in their tracks,” said Mark Carwardine, chair of the judging panel.
The selected i mages are exceptional, enthralling and unbelievable, and together they create a powerful window to life on Earth. Across the 16 categories, the exhibition captures the diversity and beauty of the natural world from intimate animal behaviour, interaction between humans and the natural world, to remote places, urban wildlife, and the underwater world.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has been running since 1964 (now in its 45th year) and is regarded as the international leader in the artistic representation of the natural world. It attracts both professional and amateur photographers, who travel far and wide and brave all kinds of conditions to capture that winning shot.
Natural History Unit of Africa (NHU Africa), headed by Sophie Vartan, commissions, co-produces and distributes wildlife documentaries for both local and international broadcasters. It strives to instil an interest in the natural world, through environmental and conservation-based initiatives and has hosted the annual Wildlife Photographer of t he Ye a r e x hi bi t i on s i nce 2006. Other NHU Africa initiatives include the Wild Talk Africa film festival and conference, www. wildtalk africa.com and the Wildlife Film Academy, which trains students in wildlife f i l m m a k i n g , w w w. w i l d l i f e f i l m academy.com
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition will be showcased until March 13 at the Iziko South African Museum, (next to the Planetarium). Opening hours are 10am to 5pm, seven days a week. Entrance costs R15 for adults, R5 for students and pensioners and no charge for children under 16.
For more i nformation, call 021 481 3800, or visit www.nhuafrica.com