Book­ings for flights to SA for soc­cer event ‘very healthy’

Au­dreyD’An­geloshares­the lat­es­tair­line­news

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

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

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