The airline industry has experienced more than its fair share of turbulent times lately. We’ve seen some new operators take to the skies, while established ones find themselves floundering after two years of hardships.
Plan ahead for seamless travel
Rising fuel prices, increased demand, and fewer operational airlines are bound to set ticket prices on an upward trajectory. The only way around this is to start planning earlier, book your flight tickets sooner, and keep tabs on industry news in case of unpleasant surprises. We’ve experienced our fair share of these lately. Mango and SA Express are no more, and several other major domestic carriers have experienced ongoing troubles.
SAA entered business rescue in December 2019, and Comair followed suit in May 2020 to protect their stakeholders from hard times to come.
Comair’s on again, off again dilemmas left passengers frustrated, stranded at the mercy of last-minute price hikes as they scramble for a way home.
Despite achieving their aims relatively quickly and taking to the skies again, Comair found itself struggling as easing travel restrictions did an about turn and has since thrown in the towel due to lack of funding.
The airline’s undergone ongoing struggles since 2020 to reach this devastating state of affairs.
In March 2022, Comair was grounded after alleged safety concerns and returned to the skies five days later only to suspend all Kulula.com and British Airways fights on 1 June 2022 due to funding issues. To the airline’s credit, they were quick to respond to the June crisis by re-routing passengers on Airlink and SAA.
BA customers with tickets for 7–12 June 2022 who were impacted by the Comair situation can rebook their flights with Airlink, subject to availability, at no extra cost. International travellers holding a regional flight ticket booked with BA for this time period may travel with SAA instead.
Travel Bank credits due to expire in June have been extended by a month and travellers with Kulula.com tickets bought during the recent sale will receive refunds.
The initial word from the airline on this latest disruption was hope that they’d resolve the situation. Sadly, they were unable to find a solution and the airline announced it would cease operations on 9 June 2022.
Comair’s enforced liquidation means that travellers now have 40% fewer flights to choose from when planning their travels. This led to an immediate upswing in flight ticket prices in the week preceding the shutdown – up to 69% in some cases.
While SAA resumed flights in September 2021, the airline is unlikely to resume international flights before 2023. SAA once offered routes to every continent, so there’s currently a huge gap in the market. This effectively clears the way for other domestic airlines to snap up new routes, especially on the international front. That too isn’t without its problems.
Delays in establishing new routes from South Africa
The South African International Air Services Licensing Council resumed its duties in March 2022, after it was disbanded a year earlier. This means the IASC now has a twelve-month long backlog to work through before we see any new route applications approved.
Cemair, a privately owned airline based at OR Tambo, is preparing several new applications to take up the shortfall. The operator has already invested in three new CRJ 900 jets, the largest in their fleet, to accommodate the upcoming expansion.
Demand for flight tickets is on the rise
Meanwhile, Cape Town Tourism reports a huge upswing in both domestic and international arrivals, which have recovered to over 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Plus, South Africa is fast approaching the prime winter safari season which attracts hundreds of thousands of international visitors every year.
New flights offered by Emirates and United Airlines will help soothe this blow to tourism, but they can’t accommodate the many domestic transfers and domestic flights in South Africa involved in these travels. It’s only a matter of time before demand for flight tickets starts to outpace supply, which is bound to lead to sky-high pricing. Due to these concerns, the South African Competition Commission has met with currently operational airlines to find a way forward by increasing capacity and to warn against price gouging.
Airlink, Lyft, FlySafair, and SAA have agreed to do what they can, but these unusual circumstances fly in the face of their automated pricing calculations. As seats fill up, ticket prices increase, as they have since the advent of commercial flights.
The future of air travel
Fortunately, provided travel demand continues to increase, the existing airlines should thrive and manage to keep pricing under control in the short term. Right now, the onus is on travellers to book as early as possible to avoid price hikes closer to the time.
British Airways press release issued Johannesburg, 7 June 2022.