FlySafair Mauritius
(Wikimedia Commons)
  • FlySafair will operate two weekly flights to Mauritius, as an ‘affordable solution’, once the island nation reopens its borders.
  • This is the low-cost carrier’s first move beyond South Africa’s borders, with approval by both governments confirmed at the end of 2020.
  • But Mauritius’ ban on South African travellers means that the route will only come online after 28 February 2021.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Local low-cost carrier FlySafair has been granted approval to operate flights between South Africa and Mauritius as its first international route. Two ‘affordable’ weekly flights between Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International airport and Mauritius will begin as soon as the island nation lifts its coronavirus-related travel ban.

Extending its popular operations beyond South Africa’s borders, FlySafair’s foray into the international market comes at a critical time for the aviation industry at large. Airlines have been battered by the global pandemic, with a downturn in both local and, more so, international travel resulting in cancelled routes, fierce financial losses, and retrenchments.

With the development and deployment of efficacious Covid-19 vaccines, international travel, particularly for leisure, is expected to surge in the latter half of 2021. The timing of FlySafair’s Mauritius expansion seeks to capitalise on this optimism.

Currently, FlySafair’s routes are limited to South Africa’s seven domestic airports, while parent operator, Safair, has been flying to international destinations for the past 50 years.

“We got our international license about two years ago and then permission to operate the Mauritian route midway through last year,” explains Kirby Gordon, FlySafair’s Chief Marketing Officer, in detailing bilateral engagements between the Mauritian and South African governments. “Frequencies were awarded to us in December.”

The airline will use its 737-800 NG, the Boeing 737 Next Generation, which can seat 162 passengers, to carry travellers between South Africa and Mauritius. While the frequency of these flights has already been confirmed, specific days will only be decided once Mauritius has reopened its borders to international visitors.

FlySafair is regarded as South Africa’s most inexpensive airline, regularly beating prices offered by its main competitors, including Kulula, Airlink and newcomer, Lift. And while the country’s embattled flag carrier, South African Airways (SAA), has been unable to fulfil its direct Mauritian route, other international airlines – namely Air Austral and British Airways – have kept their planes flowing from O.R Tambo to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.

The price of round-trip flights, direct from Johannesburg to the Indian Ocean island nation, generally range between R7,000 and R10,000. By following its low-cost South African model, FlySafair hopes to dominate the 3,600 km route to Mauritius, offering single-ticket transit between its network of domestic airports.

“Pricing, as ever, is based on the market so it will really depend on what we can get for them – supply and demand,” says Kirby.

“You can expect an affordable solution though. It will probably be a slight modification on our existing service because of the length of the flight, but it will still be an affordable offer.”

People who have travelled from or through South Africa are currently not allowed to enter Mauritius, with the ban in place until at least 28 February 2021.

Prior to the discovery of a new Covid-19 strain in South Africa, visitors were afforded access to the island nation on condition that they provide a negative test result and enter a mandatory 14-day in-room quarantine.

Compiled by Luke Daniel.

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