CARRIER POSER: SAA could soon be adding the Airbus to its fleet if they choose to opt for the new Airbus A350 instead of Boeing's Dreamliner.
CARRIER POSER: SAA could soon be adding the Airbus to its fleet if they choose to opt for the new Airbus A350 instead of Boeing's Dreamliner.

Joburg tops, but only for business

By Time of article published Jun 19, 2013

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Cape Town - The third annual Mastercard global city destination index gives the rather surprising information that Johannesburg is the most popular destination in Africa. This is probably true for business travellers but hardly for people on holiday, in spite of the efforts of Johannesburg Tourism to persuade tourists to spend a few days seeing places of historical and other interest.

However, the explanation is clearly that Johannesburg’s OR Tambo has been developed as South Africa’s hub airport for international flights, with SAA’s last overseas flight from Cape Town – its direct flight to London – withdrawn last year.

The index acknowledges the gap SAA’s withdrawal of the Cape Town flight has left. It shows that in spite of the growing importance of new tourism from India and China, the largest number of foreign visitors and biggest spenders arrive in Johannesburg from London, the second largest from Frankfurt and the third from Dubai.

Records show that the UK is our largest source market for tourists, followed by Germany.

Dismayingly, the index also reports that Cape Town tourism authorities expect a drop in tourists from Britain this year and suggests that this may be due to the loss of SAA’s direct service in spite of the fact that British Airways doubles its year round service to our airport to twice a day in the holiday season and Emirates also flies here from Dubai.

Even if SAA can be persuaded to restore the flight it may be unable to regain the arrival and departure slots it has given up at London’s Heathrow Airport, which are keenly sought after, tightly held and very expensive to obtain. The nearest alternative is Gatwick, between London and Brighton, which is popular for holiday travel but, unlike Heathrow, offers no connecting flights to the US. But tourists arrive here from other parts of Britain and it may be worth SAA’s while to start a flight from another British city which attracts business travel.

Franz Christoph, chief executive of Lufthansa, which is a partner of SAA in the Star Alliance, advised SAA during the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Cape Town that in spite of the importance of new markets opening up it was necessary to retain services to the northern hemisphere.

Reassuringly, Nico Bezuidenhout, chief executive of SAA’s low cost airline Mango, told me it would not give up any more flights to the UK in spite of a new codeshare arrangement with UAE’s national airline Etihad to carry its passengers to some destinations.

A survey of domestic airlines by the SACustomer Satisfaction Index has shown that a majority of customers are more satisfied with the value given by our two low cost airlines than by SAA’s full service one. Kulula.com had the highest score with 5.7 above the industry average and Mango 5.1 percent above it while SAA’s full service airline scored 6.1 percent below the average.

But it seems that this was due to dissatisfaction with the cost of SAA’s fare rather than the standard of service.

Adre Schreuder, chairperson of SACsi, said SAA’s score was still an acceptable one by international standards although it could be improved.

She said this was where SACsi could provide helpful advice.

South African airlines came sixth among the seven countries surveyed, with a score of 68 out of 100. It came just above the US, which scored 66. Indonesia achieved the highest score with 78 out of 100, with Singapore and Turkey scoring 73 and the UK 69.

Dreamliner or Airbus?

SAA is being offered a choice between Boeing’s Dreamliner, which is back in service after being temporarily withdrawn while it solved a problem of its lithium batteries overheating, and Airbus A350 Extra Wide Bodied, which was due to go on its maiden flight yesterday, for its long haul fleet. Both aircraft have parts made from titanium for strength and lightness, which enable them to fly further using less fuel and to offer features providing passengers with greater comfort.

Its use in new aircraft is expected to benefit South Africa, which has the world’s second largest deposits of the metal.

Boeing has signed a new partnership agreement with our CSIR aimed at producing titanium powder for industrial use in making products more cheaply for a number of industries in addition to aerospace, leading to the creation of more jobs in this country. - Weekend Argus

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