While UK route remains closed, British Airways starts flying to East London – at R595 one-way

Business Insider SA
British Airways East London
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  • British Airways, operated by Comair in South Africa, will start flying to East London in March.
  • Opening fares are capped at R595 for one-way flights to and from Johannesburg, where it is competing with low-cost sibling Kulula.
  • On the lesser-travelled Cape Town-East London route, British Airways is beating FlySafair’s prices – and check-in luggage restrictions.
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British Airways is expanding its presence in South Africa while its popular direct route to the United Kingdom remains suspended due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. From 17 March 2021, British Airways will introduce 20 weekly flights to East London from Johannesburg and Cape Town, at reduced rates.

Meanwhile, South Africans hoping to hop aboard a British Airways flight bound for London Heathrow will need to wait for at least another three months.

Comair, which operates British Airways as a South African franchisee and also owns low-cost carrier Kulula, had an especially turbulent 2020, entering voluntary business rescue in May.

Comair-operated British Airways and Kulula aircraft only returned to the skies in December. “There may still be a few bumps on the way ahead, however, now that the [business rescue] plan is adopted, at last clearer skies are now in sight,” commented Comair CEO, Wrenelle Stander, towards the end of 2020.

Part of Comair’s “seven-month ramp-up period” includes the full return of its 25-strong fleet, increasing domestic flight frequencies, and adding new local routes.

Kulula kicked off February with a limited flight promotion which slashed one-way fares to just R354. Now, British Airways has announced the introduction of new flights to East London, with the first batch of tickets on sale for R595.

“As we expand our schedule and offer more choice, we are pleased to now offer the full-service British Airways experience on these new routes,” says Desmond O’Connor, the executive head of revenue management at British Airways in South Africa.

“Furthermore, East London will also be displayed as a destination, as part of British Airways’ global distribution network.”

British Airways currently services four major airports in South Africa: OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, Cape Town International, Port Elizabeth International, and King Shaka International Airport outside Durban.

And while British Airways looks to capitalise on South African Airways’ demise, competition within the domestic market is fierce, especially amid the aviation shakeup caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

British Airways’ low-cost sibling, Kulula, already operates daily flights from Johannesburg to East London, with March fares starting at R491 for a one-way flight. These fares do, however, increase to over R800 as Kulula’s promotion period comes to an end.

Similarly, South Africa’s most popular low-cost carrier, FlySafair, is selling one-way tickets from Johannesburg to East London at R621, although with check-in luggage limitations.

But while the Johannesburg-East London route is tightly contested, BA is now a clear winner on the route between Cape Town and East London, where FlySafair’s tickets start at R920 in March.

Airlink is the only other scheduled commercial airliner which flies between Cape Town and East London, with one-way tickets priced at R1,329.

On announcing the launch of the new routes, British Airways boasted that its fares were “35% lower than fares currently offered” and while that may not be entirely accurate for travel to and from Johannesburg, it is spot on for travellers to and from Cape Town.

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