At the moment, most of South Africa’s best-known airlines have resumed their domestic schedules, albeit on a limited scale in some cases.
The big news is that SAA is back in the air from 23 September.
Comair flights on Kulula and BA resumed on 1 September, while Lift, Airlink, and FlySafair have been operating on and off since the onset of lockdown.
Here’s how things stand when it comes to pricing this season.
Currently, there are huge differences price-wise when it comes to airline tickets between these popular destinations. These are the lows and highs for economy-class tickets if you booked a flight at the end of this month, 24 September 2021 (prices courtesy of Domestic Flights South Africa).
According to SAA’s acting CEO, Thomas Kgokolo, the airline is well aware of the competitive environment and challenging market as they re-enter the airspace, hence their low prices. Interestingly, the airline plans to add even more value as time goes on.
It’s the nature of air travel that these prices vary considerably depending on when you book and which flight you choose.
While one would assume that heightened competition should drive prices down, airline ticket pricing is far more complex than that.
When demand is low and there’s an abundance of available flights, ticket prices can drop to the extent that airlines run at a loss.
During busy times and closer to lift off, demand increases considerably, leading to high demand and high yields for operators.
It’s easy to see how these variables make it extremely challenging to set prices that accommodate the annual operations budget of the airline year round.
Regardless of the airline or time you travel, tickets are always cheaper the further you book in advance. However, with the recent ongoing uncertainties around travel restrictions, economic factors, and civil unrest, few passengers are willing to take this risk.
Add to this the number of airlines who’ve had to suspend flights unexpectedly, or gone out of business without advance warning, most travellers are booking only two to three days in advance.
While BA, Kulula, SAA, and SA Express have been grounded, the shortage of flights means the cheap seats sell out even faster than usual.
According to Gordon Kirby, of FlySafair, it’s still cheaper to book in advance and pay extra for flexible tickets, than it is to book at the last minute.
While the pandemic seems unwilling to relinquish its grip on the South African economy, our embattled travel industry has no choice but to evolve with the changing times.
So, it’s likely that we’ll see more flexible options from airlines if the situation stays as fluid as it is. The beginning of September saw flight sales aplenty with Kulula offering discounts of up to 30% across the skies and FlySafair offering one way tickets at 30% off all flights and on all routes.
For now, the best option if you have to travel, remains planning and booking your flights early and keeping your arrangements as flexible as you can.