SAA Redeploys Long Haul Aircraft to Increase Flights to Abidjan, Accra, Mumbai and Perth
Cape Town – London Passengers to Fly via Johannesburg Hub from August
As part of its long term growth and business optimisation strategy, South African Airways (SAA) is taking another step towards making more effective use of its aircraft fleet by redeploying some long-haul capacity in order to better serve its growing Accra, Mumbai and Perth routes and to add Abidjan to the network.
Passengers from Cape Town to London will effective from August 15th fly via the airline’s Johannesburg hub only, and effective from August 16th from London via Johannesburg only. SAA has two daily services between Johannesburg and London-Heathrow and will be increasing its capacity on these flights by 13% through use of larger aircraft to accommodate passengers from Cape Town.
SAA offers up to 44 flights daily between Cape Town and OR Tambo International Airport. For South African travellers to European destinations outside London, travel via Johannesburg and Frankfurt or Munich offers significant convenience and cost advantages.
“SAA is redeploying its capacity to routes experiencing expanding demand as part of our larger strategy for growth and increased efficiency within the airline,” said Theunis Potgieter, SAA’s General Manager Commercial. “As an airline which has a key role in the development and support of the economy and tourism across South Africa, we are constantly working to ensure the optimal use of our resources in the national interest, for example by ensuring additional connectivity between the BRICS partners Brazil, China, India, and South Africa, and to an increasing number of African destinations.”
SAA now serves 26 destinations in Africa, having added services to Ndola on the Zambian copper belt, to the capitals of Rwanda and Burundi, Kigali and Bujumbura, to Benin’s business capital Cotonou, and to the Congolese oil hub of Pointe Noire in the past eight months. Frequencies to Accra, Dar Es Salaam, Entebbe, Harare, Mauritius, and Lusaka have been increased. Brazzaville will also be added this year.
The airline is also in discussions with the South African and Nigerian authorities to increase the number of its weekly connections between Johannesburg and Lagos.
Besides massive improvements to SAA’s Africa service, the airline has since February offered direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing for the first time, and last month increased the number of its weekly connections to Mumbai. New non-stop services to New York have reduced flying time by 90 minutes.
SAA’s route optimisation is in line with its strategy to ensure better, more frequent regional and long haul services on routes showing a growing demand for business and leisure travel to and from South Africa. The strongest growth is currently being experienced on SAA routes to Africa, Asia, Australasia, and Latin America.
SAA launched its direct service between Cape Town and London in 1992 as South Africa emerged from a long period of isolation and at the dawn of a massive growth in tourism. Since then, numerous international airlines have added the Mother City to their routes, among them airlines based in oil producing states whose structures give them a lower overall cost bases, and whose home countries – unlike the UK – do not charge South Africans for transit visas.
Serving the Cape Town – London route via Johannesburg will have an immediate positive effect on SAA’s bottom line. This fine tuning of its South Africa – UK services is in line with the approach to global route optimisation being taken by a number of international carriers. For example, Virgin Atlantic two weeks ago completely cancelled its London – Nairobi service.
Many global airlines are increasingly finding flying via the UK challenging, as that country’s Treasury has just doubled Air Passenger Departure taxes and air traffic control and other fees are particularly high. The Treasury move has even been opposed by UK-domiciled airlines due to its detrimental effect on trade, travel and tourism. Individual passengers from South Africa must now also pay a minimum of £ 52 (roughly R 685) for transit visas if they are travelling beyond the UK.
South Africa is among the top five fastest declining visitor markets to the UK, statistics made available by VisitBritain indicate. With declining numbers of passengers using the Cape Town – London flight for onward connections in Europe or North America, the route does not serve any of SAA’s network objectives.
“A thorough analysis of the route made it clear that we could use our aircraft more profitably elsewhere while continuing to ensure excellent business and tourism links between the Western Cape and the UK with our significant capacity via Johannesburg,” said Potgieter. “It is also clear that we would lose money on the direct route in future, whereas it is possible for us to operate more optimally between Cape Town and London via our Johannesburg hub.”
Among the key factors affecting the profitability of the direct Cape Town – London flight are
• a shrinking market
o demand for flights by most carriers between the Mother City and London as well as the USA via London shrank between 2007 and 2011 from 650 000 passengers to 560 000
o in the last three years, the market between the UK and South Africa for all carriers has shrunk by 24%
• poor onward connectivity from Heathrow to Europe because the sale of Star Alliance member British Midlands (BMI) to a non Alliance airline has reduced London’s usefulness as a hub for Star Alliance
o SAA is a Star Alliance member and has lost onward connectivity as a result
• increased capacity on Cape Town routes offered by SAA’s competitors who are able to offer cost effective onward connectivity from Heathrow
• significantly fewer regional or international connections from Cape Town than Johannesburg, forcing SAA to compete on the London – Cape Town route price alone rather than on a number of factors, including convenience of onward interconnectivity
Along with the increased number of weekly flights SAA will be offering to Accra, Lagos, Mumbai, and Perth, the airline is also working with Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and the Government to seek ways to significantly improve the transit experience at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
“Passengers will in future find that their baggage moves more quickly and efficiently, and there will be enhanced services for frequent flyers and Premium travellers,” said Potgieter. “We are constantly working to improve the experience of all of our passengers, as evidenced by our ongoing implementation of dedicated boarding lanes for frequent flyers and business class passengers around the world.”
SAA Cargo will reroute airfreight from Cape Town via Johannesburg without impacting on exporters who need to get their products to market in the UK rapidly. Voyager members who have booked flights between Cape Town and London after August 15th using frequent flyer miles will be rerouted via Johannesburg.
“Anyone who has booked a flight between Cape Town and London after August 15th will be rerouted via Johannesburg at no additional charge,” said Potgieter. “Passengers choosing not to be rerouted will be refunded.”
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South African Airways (SAA) is the leading carrier in Africa, serving 26 destinations across the continent, as well as major destinations within South Africa and internationally from its Johannesburg hub. It is a member of the largest international airline network, Star Alliance. SAA’s core business is the provision of passenger airline and cargo transport services together with related services, which are provided through SAA and its four wholly owned subsidiaries: SAA Technical; Mango its low cost carrier; Air Chefs, the catering entity of SAA and South African Travel Centre (SATC). SAA CEO Siza Mzimela is the first woman to be appointed to the IATA Board of Directors in its 67 year history. SAA is the winner of the 'Best Airline in Africa’ Award in the regional category for nine consecutive years and the winner of ‘Service Excellence Africa’ for two consecutive years. Mango and SAA hold the number one and number two successive spots as South Africa’s most on time airlines.
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