South African low-cost airline FlySafair dismisses claims that their R4 sale on May 17 was a scam. Picture: Supplied.

South African low-cost airline FlySafair has hit back on claims that their R4 sale was a scam.

FlySafair Head of Sales and Distribution, Kirby Gordon, told IOL Travel they had sold over 32 000 seats at just R4 in less than three hours yesterday.

Following the news of the sale, many social media users claimed the sale was “a scam”.

Among them were @realTshepiso who tweeted: “#FlySafair From a mathematicians point of view. How about you give us a count of how many people are on the website so that we have an idea of the probability of winning in the draw. Bcos right now this is looking like a huge PR stunt” (sic).

But Gordon assured South Africans that the airline was keeping to their “ tradition of having a very big annual sale.”

He said: “There’s no scam at all. It’s a great offer, and so it’s no wonder that people find it hard to believe. R4 can’t even buy you a loaf of bread, but we’re offering you the opportunity to fly between two cities for just that.

“Naturally there will be people who will be disappointed at the opportunity to get tickets. 30 000 seats is a lot and it costs us a lot of money, but when you relate it to the size of our whole population it’s not that much.

“Considering that there are 54 million South Africans, your chance of getting a ticket is one in 1800. There are 14 million South Africans on Facebook – so even looking at those odds your chances are 1 in 467,” he said.

Gordon said while the airline would have loved nothing more than to make 54 million seats available at just R4, it was not feasible.

“It’s not lost that many were disappointed, but we also know that they’ll be back again next year to try their luck again. Hopefully 2019 will be their year…”he said.

The airline started their annual sale in  2015 when they sold their tickets for just R1. It increased to R2 in 2016 and R3 last year. This year they put just over 30 000 seats on selected flights, departing between yesterday and the end of September up for sale.

“It was a huge hit with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the site to try and get their hands on these tickets and we sold out in just less than 2 and a half hours this year,” he added.

How it worked this year

Gordon said the sale attracts a huge volume of traffic. In their first year, the airline's website crashed due to the huge influx of people on the site. To prevent this, they built a waiting room concept. 

“We created a “holding page” where users are held before gaining access to the site. We allow stream of a few thousand people onto the site when the proverbial doors opened at 9am. Thereafter, we randomly draws  groups of people to gain access every 5 minutes to keep the shop full. They can book up to 14 people onto a booking for return flights. However, once the purchase is done. they had to wait in the waiting room again," he said.