GO NOW: Preparations are under way for the 179th Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, held from September 22 to October 7. Cash in on a special offer from Edelweiss Air and join the fun.

Cape Town - Swiss airline Edelweiss Air, which flew between Cape Town and Zurich for the first time last summer, is returning at the beginning of next month with two flights a week in each direction until May, and is offering a special economy class fare from here to 17 destinations from R6 590 including taxes and surcharges.

The catch is that the tickets must be bought by this coming Thursday for travel between October 1 and December 10.

The 17 destinations are Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Geneva, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Nice, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Venice and Tel Aviv. The minimum stay is three days and the maximum four months.

The first stage of the flight will be to Edelweiss’s home airport of Zurich, leaving Cape Town on Tuesday and Friday evenings and coming back on Monday evenings or on a daylight flight on Fridays. But the onward connection from Zurich to the 17 destinations offered on the special fare will be on Swiss International Airlines, Edelweiss’s parent company.

Edelweiss flights from here will be on an Airbus A330 in two classes, economy and business. Bookings can be made on www.swiss.com or through a travel agency.

As Swiss International Airlines is owned by German airline Lufthansa, its passengers and those of Edelweiss can earn points on Lufthansa’s Miles and More loyalty programme.

Improving business

In the past year airlines all over the world have been struggling, and some have gone under, as a result of soaring fuel prices, high taxation and the economic situation. But Erik Venter, chief executive of Comair, says that passenger demand in this country is improving after a difficult year for all our domestic airlines.

It was a year which has caused 1Time to be granted business rescue – a new facility which enables loss-making airlines that have a reasonable chance of recovery to trade out of their difficulties. Comair, which made a small loss in the first six months of its financial year, is profitable again although the combination of high fuel prices and taxes has forced it to put up its fares by 14 percent.

Its improved situation is due partly to the fact that it is switching to new-generation aircraft using less fuel, and partly to economies including providing in-flight meals from its own kitchen, opened during the past year, instead of using an in-flight catering company.

Apparently 50 percent of passengers on Comair’s low-cost division, kulula.com, and 65 percent of those on the full-service airline, British Airways franchise holder BA/Comair, are on business, with some flying several times a week. Many others have family homes in Cape Town but work in Johannesburg and commute at weekends.

1Time also has a large number of regular passengers, who have been supportive during its present difficulties.

It, too, has tried to obtain finance to acquire new-generation aircraft but so far has been unsuccessful. - Weekend Argus