Think before you panic buy your next flight ticket. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA
Think before you panic buy your next flight ticket. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

Panic flight buying: How I almost bought a one-way ticket to Cape Town during week of unrest

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Jul 19, 2021

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Packing my suitcase to leave Durban had been the furthest thing from my mind when violent unrest and looting began last week.

I thought it would boil over within days and that the country would begin rebuilding after the devastating loss.

I could have never been so wrong. With the unrest moving swiftly throughout the province, the only option would be seeking solace elsewhere.

For the first time in my life, I felt unsafe being in my own city. The constant social media voice notes, messages and news didn't help.

One evening, after hearing how close the situation had been to my house and subsequently hearing the horror stories by relatives and friends in other suburbs, I planned to take the first flight out to Cape Town the following morning.

Cape Town was among the safest cities for South Africans after KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were affected by the unrest and looting.

Airlines were inundated with requests from people wanting to escape the turmoil in their areas, and I had been one of them.

Due to the demand, the prices of tickets sky-rocketed. A one-way ticket from Durban to Cape Town cost more than R3 000, which is expensive when you factor in the cost for other family members. With driving not an option as the fuel supply was low, I found myself feeling dismayed. There wasn't a way out of this fear.

Had the flights had been cheaper, I probably would have hastily booked the flight without considering other factors.

For example, besides the exorbitant flight fees (more about that later), people fleeing would have to consider accommodation if they did not have homes at the other destination, food, transport costs and more. With the current Covid-19 situation, exploration could be a concern if the country imposed more travel restrictions.

The rise in flight prices

As FlySafair chief marketing officer Kirby Gordon explained to IOL Travel earlier this year, flight pricing is quite complex.

"Pricing is not really understood that well. The airline industry is still bleeding money. When an airline sells a flight, it’s traded on a market. What that means is that the supply and demand determine the pricing.

“For example, if the demand is low and supply is plentiful, then the price is really low. It will also be low if the trip is planned in advance. However, if they are booking closer to peak travel times, then the demand sky-rockets. During that period, you get a high demand and high yield.

“While flights may seem expensive, the airline is essentially running at a loss. However, on some flights, airlines will make a profit due to the demand,” said Gordon.

Think before you fly

While the situation has improved in the country over the weekend, South Africans cannot predict future incidents. You may want to think before you panic buy your next flight ticket.

Before you book, weigh the pros and cons. Does it align with your budget? What are the benefits of flying elsewhere? Would there be additional household costs, including house sitting and dog care?

Is the situation dire that I need to escape to another destination? How long will I stay at the location? Constantly monitor the situation before making your final decision.

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