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Published on : Tuesday, May 26, 2015
The advance of South Africa’s budget airlines, recently joined by FlySafair and Skywise, looks set to benefit air travel consumers as competition between the private and state-owned sector strengthens. A study done in February showed how FlySafair had already helped bring prices down on some domestic routes. Now we look to Skywise to continue the momentum. Currently operating flights between Johannesburg (ORTIA) and Cape Town on a fleet of 2 aircraft, the newcomers’ growth strategy is clearly cautious and methodical.
What it’s Like To Fly With Skywise
But there seems to be some confusion about who exactly these airlines are, where do they fly, and in each case, what do they offer consumers? One passenger said, “What a shock it was to find out we have to pay an extra R250 for luggage on the FlySafair flight!” While it’s understandable for consumers to be wary of these seemingly unfair pricing methods, the truth is many mainstream budget carriers (such as Ryanair in Europe) have been conducting business like this for years – it is commonly referred to as the low-cost carrier model, and is widely accepted by passengers as a ‘no frills’ way to travel.
In comparison to the rest of the world, South Africa’s commercial aviation industry has remained relatively small over the years. The independent carriers have faced David & Goliath style battles against the legacy carriers, and traditionally, government bailouts and interim interdicts have delayed the launch of much anticipated ‘saviours’ of the low-cost airline industry.
We, the travelling public, know what it’s like to suffer at the hands of a monopoly – just think back to that dark period, which clouded the sky about the same time as 1Time Airlines applied for business rescue in August, 2012. In the following weeks we watched in dismay as the airline met its end, rendering competition amongst SA’s domestic airlines all but dead. I remember my friend was in Zanzibar at the time. He’d happily flown out on 1Time only to discover the airline ceased operations the day before he was meant to fly home.
Seat sales became a thing of the past as the monopoly tightened its grip, and then in late 2014, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, there was suddenly a new player in town when FlySafair finally overcame the resistance from its established competitors.
Suddenly price conscious travellers were being catered for again, and travellers had more freedom of choice as the new no frills airlines made it cheaper for more South Africans to fly. Now with Skywise mixing it up on the ever-popular Joburg / Cape Town leg, the state of the airline industry hasn’t looked this bright in a while and we look forward to seeing the low cost carrier rise and become an increasingly utilised mode of transport in the eyes of consumers everywhere.
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