The inaugural flight of Durban-based airline Velvet Sky is given a traditional welcome shower on arrival at King Shaka International Airport on March 22. A controlling stake in the company has been bought by Excalibur Aerospace, and two additional Boeing 737s will be leased. Photo: Justin Fuchs.

Velvet Sky has expansion plans on its horizon, with two more Boeing 737s on order from international leasing company Aergo.

A controlling share in the low-cost airline was taken over by aviation service provider Excalibur Aerospace, which is owned by private equity company Excalibur, for an undisclosed amount last month.

The airline, a broad-based black economic empowerment company, is based in Durban and flies between that city, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It is growing rapidly despite fierce competition in the sector and teething troubles in the days after its launch in March, caused by the fact that it began operations with only one aircraft. It now has a leased DC9 in addition to the original Boeing 737 with 148 seats, both in an all-economy configuration.

Gary Webb, the chief operating officer who was previously the head of the passenger marketing division of SAA, said the two additional Boeing 737s had been ordered from Aergo.

Chief executive Dhevan Pillay said the domestic airline market was expanding rapidly after the global recession and Velvet Sky expected to benefit from an estimated market growth of about 6 percent. It aimed to expand into other Southern African Development Community countries when it had a larger fleet.

At present, the airline offers three flights a day between Cape Town and Johannesburg and two flights a day between Johannesburg and Durban.

Webb said its passenger loads were “above expectations” at more than 70 percent.

Although it is “a no frills, simple value for money” service, it offers free tea, coffee, fruit juice or water, and meals for R30. However, Webb said that only a minority of passengers ordered meals.

The director of flight operations is Paul Green, a former captain with Nationwide. Maintenance is by SAA Technical. - Audrey D’Angelo