Cape Town - Swiss airline Edelweiss, which specialises in leisure travel but offers destinations and a business class comfortable enough to tempt business travellers, will return to Cape Town next month for the third consecutive year. In the past three years, which have been difficult for most of the world’s airlines, many of which have cut services, Edelweiss has expanded its route network at an astonishing rate and will do so again next year, when it will add non-stop flights from its home airport of Zurich to Las Vegas, Havana and Edinburgh.
Edelweiss, once a charter airline, was bought by German airline Lufthansa – which also owns Swiss International Airlines – in 2008 and has been successfully developed into a leisure airline, taking passengers in comfort to a growing number of destinations from Zurich or Geneva.
It now has 45 popular destinations in countries ranging from Norway to Portugal, Greece, the US, Canada, Mauritius and Kenya, and carried more than 1.3 million passengers last year.
Its flights to Cape Town in the last two years brought well-heeled tourists from Switzerland, Britain, Germany, Italy and other European countries.
The snag for Capetonians is that, since it aims at the holiday travel market, it does not fly to all these destinations all year round; most are seasonal.
Last week I quoted Erik Venter, chief executive of Comair, warning our government that introducing a carbon tax on airlines would slow down their acquisition of more fuel-economic aircraft that emit less polluting CO2 gas, and would harm our tourism industry by forcing them to raise airline ticket prices to cover their higher costs.
This will be the main topic of discussion at a forthcoming meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which, like the International Air Transport Association, has called on governments not to introduce their own carbon taxes on airlines but to join the airline industry in an international effort to reduce pollution and achieve a target of carbon neutral growth by 2020.
Our own minister of tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk – by far the most effective we have ever had in that position – played a major part in persuading European governments not to impose a carbon tax on airlines flying into Europe from the moment of take-off, which would have discriminated against long-haul flights and threatened to cause a trade war.
If they can agree next month to join the airline industry in a joint campaign to reduce pollution by taking several measures, we can hope that the British government will drop its absurdly high arrival and departure tax – introduced allegedly to protect the environment by discouraging “unnecessary flying” – since its effect has been shown only to discourage direct, non-stop flights from long-haul destinations. - Weekend Argus