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Comair has taken delivery of a new-generation Boeing 737 800, bought for its low-cost division, kulula.com.
To celebrate, journalists and other guests were flown on the aircraft from Joburg to Cape Town.
Comair is changing kulula’s entire fleet of 737s to new-generation, fuel-saving aircraft that also cause less pollution.
This is something that almost all airlines are doing, or raising finance to do, to remain competitive in a time of rising costs and concern about global warming.
SAA has taken delivery of new-generation Airbus A 330s for its growing African network, and 1Time is preparing to order a new fleet.
Kulula’s new plane is equipped with a “changing sky”, a feature it shares with one of Boeing’s newest aircraft, the Dreamliner.
The crew can adjust the LED lights in the ceiling to simulate any time of day.
But tall passengers were more impressed that the design of the ceiling had been altered to give more overhead luggage space and more head room.
Comair is also saving costs by persuading some of its pilots and cabin crew to move from Joburg to Cape Town, so they need not stay overnight in hotels at the airline’s expense when their last flight of the day ends here.
Hotel costs are obviously a major item for international airlines.
Because they have to change crews at the end of every long-haul flight, they have to maintain a large number of rooms permanently at a good hotel at each regular destination.
But domestic airlines have the option of arranging crew schedules so that most of them can go home.
Erik Venter, chief executive of Comair, said he had had no difficulty in encouraging pilots to live in Cape Town.
He had just carried out a recruitment campaign for cabin staff already living in the city.
The passengers on the celebratory flight included some Boeing executives competing with their European rival, Airbus, to sell new aircraft to all African airlines.
In its forecast for African airlines, released this week, Boeing predicted rapid growth over the next 20 years to meet the needs of the continent’s growing middle class and tourism industry.
It expects African airlines to acquire 900 new aircraft in that time – which means 14 500 pilots and 12 600 maintenance technicians will be needed.
There will be more direct flights to many more destinations, including to the emerging markets of South America and Asia.
This, of course, is why European and Middle Eastern airlines are increasingly flying into Africa, competing with SAA, and why our national carrier is expanding its route network on the continent as it gains more air traffic rights for cross-border flights.
Forecasts of chaos in overcrowded UK airports and a shortage of hotel accommodation as the crowds start arriving in London for the Olympics don’t seem to be coming true. A combination of these forecasts, the weak rand, and the high taxation of passengers arriving by air seem to have discouraged many South Africans from going to see the Games.
Our athletes flew off in a specially decorated SAA aircraft.
Predictably, British companies have invited large numbers of SA corporate guests, returning the hospitality many of our companies extended to them when we hosted the World Cup in 2010.
Will Puk, managing director in SA of Travel Counsellors, said the franchised travel agency’s agents were booking flights for several groups of these corporate travellers, but comparatively few individuals or families.
British Airways, which has a large number of flights from Joburg as well as its daily flights from Cape Town, was offering a special return fare of R7 513 including taxes from Cape Town and R6 913 from Joburg (the four-day booking period has now expired) for travel between July 17 and August 4 – a clear indication that its aircraft are not packed with visitors to the Games.
Puk predicts there may be other special offers before the Games are over.
And if visitor numbers are far lower than expected, it will strengthen the case made out by Britain’s airlines and tourism industry for their government to reduce the punishing air duties that passengers to London are being charged. - Weekend Argus