South Africa’s constrained airlines are set to see ticket price hikes ahead of holidaymakers planning trips for the festive season.
Aviation analyst Des Latham told ENCA that the collapse of the rand, combined with the drop-off of domestic airlines South African Airways (SAA) and Comair and increased demand for air travel, will push ticket prices much higher than usual during the coming peak travel period.
Latham said South African travellers should book well in advance and plan ahead to avoid paying nearly double for ticket prices.
He said, for example, if you were to look at prices in March for a return flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, it was R2,400; currently, it is around R6,000. It may take up to two years until prices stabilise, he noted.
He added that this is, in part, the nature of supply and demand during busy travel seasons; however, the current situation at airports across the country has exacerbated the usual uptick in prices.
Concern over price gauging stretches back to March this year when the Competition Commission cautioned airlines against price gouging after the grounding of domestic British Airways and Khulula umbrella company Comair.
There is also a propensity for airlines to hike prices around this time of year, said Latham. However, in light of the heightened cost of living and the South African middle class facing economic headwinds this year, the extent to which airlines can stretch prices has lessened.
“As the volume goes up, the prices go up, naturally, but unlike in the 70s or 80s when airlines could print money – the current economy does not allow that,” said Latham. He added that South Africa is not alone in facing airline constraints and heightened ticket prices, the international community, including the US and AUS, are facing similar issues.
The analyst provided the following tips for people seeking to travel in light of heightened costs:
- Plan quicker and ahead of time. “You can not drop everything and fly to Cape Town.”
- Booking in October is cutting it fine, but the earlier, the better.
- Look at alternative days to fly. Busy routes, such as between Joburg and Cape Town, can have good deals on off-peak days.
- See if you can change the holiday periods. Flying just before the 16th of December could inflict the highest costs.
- Look at alternative airlines that may operate smaller, more cost-effective planes.
Only four of the eight domestic airlines that served South Africa before Covid-19 are still in business: FlySafair, Lift, CemAir and Airlink.
Other airlines like SA Express, Kulula, British Airways and Mango have all been grounded or shut down, significantly reducing the amount of available space in the skies.
Operational costs for airlines have also hit record highs, with the price of jet fuel hitting record highs and the consistency of its supply remaining questionable.
There have been two instances of jet fuel shortages across South Africa, the latest being towards of September when the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA) warned of a lack of jet fuel at Cape Town International Airport.
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