UK’s Fastjet steps into breach

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iol travel dec 10 audrey cw mango flights

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Mango, SAA's low-cost division, is again putting on special flights this summer timed to connect passengers with Mediterranean Shipping Company cruises leaving from Cape Town and Durban. PICTURE: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - Well, it looks as if we shall have 1time back again, possibly in time for Christmas. That’s if an offer to buy it out of provisional liquidation is successful, and the return date for the liquidation to be made final – due at the beginning of next week – can be put back, making it possible to retain the airline’s licence.

London-based Fastjet, which aims to become a pan-African airline and was negotiating to buy 1time when it applied for a provisional licence, is now negotiating with the provisional liquidator, Aviwe Nyamura, and may acquire it more cheaply if it can reach agreement with its creditors. Even if this deal falls through, Fastjet is apparently not the only prospective purchaser.

We may have even more choice of airlines if 1time’s founders, who have applied for a licence to start a new one, go ahead with this plan in spite of the formidable new competition they will face.

Meanwhile Mango, the low-cost division of SAA, is filling a gap in the market made by the loss of 1time’s flights connecting Johannesburg and Cape Town with Port Elizabeth. Its first flight there arrived on Wednesday crammed with 186 passengers. Spokesman Hein Kaiser tells me bookings for other flights indicate that they will have passenger loads of more than 80 percent. Mango was, apparently, planning to fly the route in any case, but not until next year when it will take delivery of more aircraft. Until then, says Kaiser, it will have one return flight a day on the route.

Mango plans to fly to Zanzibar – a route pioneered by 1time, which offered package holidays there on its website, selling most if not all the accommodation on the island. Presumably, if 1time starts flying again in time for the Christmas holidays, bookings made in this way can be reinstated.

Mango chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout expects the airline to have a bumper holiday season and has adjusted its year-end traffic forecast by seven percent. He says there has been a marked increase in the number of airline passengers compared with the first three-quarters of the year. He expects Mango to carry more than 200 000 travellers between this month and mid-January, and expects fuel prices – which have been the downfall of several airlines in the past two years – to be relatively stable over this period.

Pointing out that soaring oil prices have hit motorists as well as airlines, he believes this is one of the reasons South Africans appear to be going on shorter holidays since 2008, with an average reduction of between two and four days. - Weekend Argus

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