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Cape Town - The weak rand makes it expensive for us to go to most overseas destinations, particularly the US and UK. But it encourages foreign tourists to come here to boost our economy by spending foreign exchange and, fortunately, we have plenty of airlines able to bring them.
British Airways, which flies to Cape Town all year round, has started its second daily flight as usual in the summer season, and rival Virgin Atlantic, which withdraws from its Cape Town route for the winter low season, is back again. It started on October 18 with three flights a week but, since last Thursday, increased this to daily.
Both Ian Petrie, BA regional commercial manager for Africa, and Simon Newton-Smith, Virgin’s general manager in this country, pointed out that British tourists outnumbered those from all other countries, even in the recession, and have already exceeded the number who had arrived by this time last year.
Newton-Smith said he expected to bring about 31 000 tourists to Cape Town this year, who were expected to spend about R270 000 while they were here. Petrie said BA’s second daily flight in the summer increased the number of seats available on the Cape Town route by nearly 2 400.
In spite of that he was unable to get a seat on a direct flight from London himself last week and had to come by way of Johannesburg – a promising indication of the numbers we can expect this summer. And this year both BA flights will be overnight in both directions because this is more popular than the daylight return flights the airline has put on in the past.
I think it’s a pity that more local people are reluctant to use daylight flights on a long haul trips, possibly because they think it a waste of a day they could spend at the destination. But, particularly when flying to a place where there is little difference in time, you can arrive in time to enjoy the evening, instead of leaving the airport in the morning rush hour, tired after a night of interrupted sleep.
Like almost every other airline BA is buying new generation aircraft using less fuel and will take delivery of Boeing’s new Dreamliner – which I’m told is likely to be used on the Cape Town route – as well as Airbus A 380s by next July.
According to Petrie the programme of improvements includes the wines served on board, which include some from South Africa including the Mullineux syrah 2010, the Mullineux white blend 2011 and the Mullineux straw wine 2010, which will all be served in first class.
Petrie said BA continued to fly non-stop to Cape Town in the winter slow season because it demonstrated confidence in the city but it helped when events of international interest were held. He hoped the tourism authorities would organise more of them as part of their campaign to make this a year-round destination. - Weekend Argus