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Flying from SA to the US now costs 21% more – but if you can wait, it'll be cheaper soon

Business Insider SA
United Airlines aircraft (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
United Airlines aircraft (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
  • Searches for flights from South Africa to America have surged beyond pre-pandemic levels.
  • So too have the prices of those flights.
  • The average fare for a flight to the US has increased by 21%, according to the global travel search site Cheapflights.
  • But tickets are likely to become cheaper in the next few months as the US' busy summer season draws to a close and airlines begin operating additional South African routes.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Flying from South Africa to the United States has got more expensive, but with airlines gunning for additional routes, coinciding with off-peak travel times, fares could get cheaper.

After spending much of the pandemic at home, South Africans, like the rest of the world, are looking to travel again. But several compounding factors have made both domestic and international travel more expensive and complicated.

The demise of Comair, operators of Kulula and British Airways flights in South Africa, has siphoned capacity from the market. That's made it harder and more expensive to find domestic flights at the last minute. Record-high fuel prices haven't helped either.

Cost-cutting measures initiated during the height of the pandemic and its associated travel bans continue to haunt the aviation industry. Airports, now short-staffed, have been plunged into chaos, especially in Europe. International airlines, which are yet to recover all their pre-pandemic routes and frequencies, are also playing catchup.

Despite these travel troubles, South Africans are keen to holiday abroad, according to the global travel search site Cheapflights. Interest in travel from South Africa to Europe has surged by 30% compared to pre-pandemic search traffic, with searches for flights to London alone increasing by 145%.

And it's not just summer vacations in Europe catching South Africans' attention. Flight searches for travel from South Africa to the US in the second half of 2022 have increased by 60% compared to pre-pandemic, according to Cheapflights data. Flights from South Africa to Los Angeles command the most interest, with searches up 159%. Travel to Miami and New York has also proven popular.

Searches for flights to the US are up compared to 2019, but so too are the prices. The average fare has increased by 21%, according to Cheapflights.

There's likely to be some relief for travellers soon, though, says Laure Bornet, GM, KAYAK EMEA, which manages Cheapflights, if holidaymakers are prepared to wait a couple of months before jetting off.

"The majority of flight searches we see are for the US' summer months, as well as the end-of-year December holiday period," explained Bornet.

"If travellers can be flexible about their dates and consider flying to the US during the off-peak season when the US schools and universities go back after their summer break, they can indeed save some cash on their trip."

Flights from South Africa to the US in September and October, for example, are at least a third of the price of those in August, says Bornet.

Fares are likely to become cheaper still once additional routes and frequencies between South Africa and the US come into effect. Two major US airlines, United and Delta, were recently awarded three weekly flights each to service Cape Town – pending the South African government's final say – to compliment already-existing flights to Johannesburg.

See also | US' Delta and United were fighting for new flights to Cape Town – now, both get a piece

United, which already operates Newark to Johannesburg and Newark to Cape Town, applied for three weekly flights between Washington and the Mother City, using the Boeing 787, in March. Delta's application in February called for three weekly flights directly to the Mother City, using the Airbus A350. Both airlines aim to start flying these new routes in November.

"With airlines relaunching direct flights, we can expect to see some great value for travellers wanting to go across to the US," said Bornet.


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