South African Airways (SAA) lagged behind with 68.8 and well below the industry par of 72.4. Picture: ANA

The 2018 South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) for Airlines conducted by Consulta shows that low-cost, domestic airlines are still leading when it comes to meeting the needs of South African consumers.

The latest Customer Satisfaction Index for Airlines polled customers of British Airways (Comair), FlySafair, Kulula, Mango and South African Airways (SAA).  

FlySafair leads the SA-csi ranking, with 78 points out of 100, followed by British Airways (Comair) which scored 75.7 and Kulula Airlines reached 74.4 - all in leader positions.  Mango scored on par with the industry average with 74 points. 

South African Airways (SAA) lagged behind with 68.8 and well below the industry par of 72.4.

Air transport is a key driver for the South African economy, supporting half a million jobs and contributing $12-billion, or 3.5 percent into the country’s GDP according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Oxford Economics.

However, customer experience when dealing with airlines is particularly vulnerable to dissatisfaction, especially in South Africa where customers have been let down due to airline closures such as Velvet Sky and 1time.

One of the key challenges is that few airlines in the region are able to achieve adequate load factors to generate sustainable profits. Across the board, Africa airlines faced especially challenging operating environments. 

“FlySafair’s performance has been particularly robust, driven by a focus on customer service and on-time departures and arrivals," explained SA-csi founder and chairperson Professor Adré Schreuder.

"According to statistics published by the Airport Company South Africa (ACSA), FlySafair scored an average on-time performance of 93.6 percent for 2018, well ahead of other local airlines. 

What FlySafair has managed to do well is to balance being a low-cost affordable airline, without sacrificing quality customer service,” he added.

Modern airlines juggle the complex goals of bringing affordable air travel to more people while maintaining efficiencies in an increasingly competitive industry that struggles with tight margins. 

“On a per passenger basis, the airline industry is a high-volume, low-margin industry which is why customer satisfaction and experience are such crucial factors in airline sustainability. 

"In the face of calls for privatisation to removal of political interference, SAA has a monumental task to prove that it can return to profitability and meet consumer needs while operating as a state-owned entity,” he concluded.