Air­lines hike ticket prices by over 200%

The Star Late Edition - - Front Page - EDWARD WEST AND CHULUMANCO MAHAMBA

AIR­LINES have ig­nored Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s warn­ing to in­dus­try not to cash in on the coro­n­avirus cri­sis and hiked ticket prices by more than 200% in some cases.

Ahead of the 21-day na­tional shut­down, air­line ticket prices for do­mes­tic flights de­part­ing yes­ter­day and to­day were sold at in­flated prices.

At about noon yes­ter­day, the cheap­est Ku­l­ula econ­omy ticket de­part­ing from OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Cape Town in­ter­na­tional Air­port was about R3 238 and the most ex­pen­sive flight ticket was about R4 518.

Yes­ter­day, the cheap­est ticket for the same route was just R880.

The low­est FlySafair econ­omy ticket de­part­ing from ORTambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Cape Town in­ter­na­tional Air­port yes­ter­day was R1 599 and the most ex­pen­sive was about R3 200.

Last year, around this time of the year, the cheap­est flight for the air­line was about R898, ac­cord­ing to South Africa Travel Online which spe­cialises in news, re­views and re­search on flights, cruises and car hire in South Africa.

Mango econ­omy class tick­ets were also pricey at R1 649, and the most ex­pen­sive was about R1 799 at about noon yes­ter­day.

Last year, on the same day, the cheap­est ticket go­ing from Joburg to Cape Town was about R989.

Ku­l­ spokesper­son Wil­liam Smook said the ticket prices were higher than usual be­cause glob­ally and lo­cally the avi­a­tion in­dus­try was se­verely af­fected by the Covid-19 out­break and that it had put a “huge strain” on the air­line’s op­er­a­tions and cus­tomers.

“We are try­ing to be as flex­i­ble as pos­si­ble and have ad­justed some of our poli­cies to ac­com­mo­date our cus­tomers,” he said.

Smook added that the tick­ets for cus­tomers who booked tick­ets be­fore the shut­down would be valid for 12-months re­gard­less of fare rules and re­stric­tions.

Mango spokesper­son Ser­gio San­tos-Van Vu­uren said the rea­son why their tick­ets were higher was be­cause the air­line had re­duced ca­pac­ity.

“We are op­er­at­ing less flights than we did last year and there­fore there’s less seat avail­abil­ity which does af­fect pric­ing on cer­tain flights and routes. These changes were made even prior to the pres­i­dent’s an­nounce­ment of the shut­down,” he said.

FlySafair spokesper­son Kirby Gor­don said the prices at which the air­line can sell flights was purely de­ter­mined by the mar­ket forces of sup­ply and demand.

“When demand is low, and seats are plen­ti­ful, we some­times can’t even give seats away. Con­versely, when demand is high and the sup­ply re­stricted, we can achieve higher prices,” he said.

Mean­while, SA Air­ways, Air­link and FlySafair will sus­pend do­mes­tic flights from mid­night to­day in line with the na­tion­wide lock­down for 21 days aimed at pre­vent­ing the spread of the Covid19 virus.

FlySafair cus­tomers, who have ex­ist­ing flights booked dur­ing the lock-up, could make penalty free changes to other dates, while those seek­ing re­funds had to change their reser­va­tions to a flight voucher, with all eligible book­ings to be assessed and con­verted to cash if re­quested.

SAA said there would be one free travel change for flights be­tween Tuesday and to­mor­row, and re-ac­com­mo­da­tion of cus­tomers for this pur­pose would be on a first-come-first-served ba­sis.

Do­mes­tic and re­gional air­line Air­link said it would sus­pend all op­er­a­tions af­ter mid­night tonight.

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