Travel

You'll now struggle to find a one-way flight from Joburg to Cape Town for under R1,000 in June

Business Insider SA
Kulula Airline (Gallo Images)
Kulula Airline (Gallo Images)
  • Comair announced the grounding of Kulula and British Airways flights, representing around 40% of domestic airline capacity, on Tuesday evening.
  • Since then, seats aboard other airlines are selling out in a hurry, pushing up ticket prices and making it harder to find cheap flights.
  • Before Comair's announcement, competing airlines displayed more than 30 cumulative flight days with tickets starting below R1,000 between Johannesburg's OR Tambo and Cape Town in June.
  • The number of available cheap flights has since been cut by more than half, and those that remain are being bought fast.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Flights around South Africa in June are filling up quickly following the sudden grounding of Comair's Kulula and British Airways (BA). Finding a cheap fare won't be easy.

Financially troubled Comair announced on Tuesday evening that it had suspended Kulula and BA flights pending "additional funding". This has resulted in a drastic and sudden shortfall in supply, with Comair estimating that its operations accounted for 40% of domestic carrier capacity, leaving passengers scrambling for seats on other flights.

Within hours of Comair's announcement, ticket sales aboard other local airlines surged. Cheap seats sold out fast, with those on flights departing soon increasing more than 70% in price between Wednesday morning and afternoon.

It's a situation which previously played out in March when Comair was forced to ground its flights for almost a week because of safety and security risks flagged by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). Remaining airlines sold out quickly, with passengers clambering for open seats at the last minute, paying a premium.

The sudden rise in fares caused South Africa's Competition Commission to issue a warning to airlines about price gouging concerns. Now, as Kulula and BA flights remain grounded again, this time due to cash flow problems, the Commission confirmed that it had met with competing airlines on Wednesday afternoon, ostensibly to discuss the issue of surging prices.

The initial impact of Comair's grounding on ticket prices for flights around South Africa was felt almost immediately, with fares rapidly increasing for the days and week ahead. Now, the ripple effect of demand suddenly outstripping supply has extended throughout the month of June.

Before Comair's announcement on Tuesday evening, airlines' booking platforms displayed at least 32 flight days from Johannesburg's OR Tambo to Cape Town with tickets starting below R1,000. By Thursday afternoon, this number had more than halved.

Low-cost airline FlySafair regularly offers affordable tickets for flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town. In July, for example, more than half the airline's flight days indicate starting fares below R1,000.

On Wednesday morning, FlySafair's online booking platform displayed 14 flight days with one-way tickets starting under R1,000. By Thursday, the number of these available cheap flights had decreased by around 65%, to just five flight days.

LIFT Airline, which only flies between Johannesburg and Cape Town, has also been selling tickets in a hurry. The carrier's booking platform showed at least 15 flight days with fares starting below R1,000 before Comair's announcement. A couple of those flights had been chipped away within hours, and, by Thursday, only nine LIFT flight days displaying starting prices under R1,000 remained, a reduction of 40% of cheap seats.

Airlink displayed at least two flight days with tickets starting below R1,000. A day later, none were available, with the cheapest seats between Johannesburg's OR Tambo and Cape Town now starting at R1,188. Cemair showed a single flight day with fares starting at R900 for June on Wednesday morning and has maintained that starting price for its early morning flight on Friday 10 June.

South African Airways (SAA) didn't have any tickets for under R1,000 from Johannesburg to Cape Town, making it the most expensive airline to fly on even before Comair's grounding of Kulula and BA. Its starting fares on this route begin at R1,171 and extend beyond R2,000.

All prices quoted from airlines' booking platforms were correct at 14:30 on Thursday 2 June. Because of the sudden surge in demand, these fares are constantly changing.


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