AIRLINES, who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, maintain that the cost of an air ticket is based on supply and demand and that the cost of flights can't be avoided. Picture: AP
AIRLINES, who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, maintain that the cost of an air ticket is based on supply and demand and that the cost of flights can't be avoided. Picture: AP

The high cost of SA airfare tickets debate: Part 1

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Aug 18, 2021

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If you ask anyone about the cost of flights in South Africa, people offer different viewpoints.

Some people believe that current prices are too expensive for travellers, claiming that airlines are ripping them off.

Others believe the prices are justified as many South African airlines have halted their operations.

Airlines, who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, maintain that the cost of an air ticket is based on supply and demand and that the cost of flights can't be avoided.

If one looks at the prices of an air ticket from King Shaka International Airport in Durban to OR Tambo International Airport in Joburg, the average flight cost for travel date August 22 is about R2 000 one way. For September 1, the same route rate averages R800. Rates differ according to routes and days of travel.

The dilemma

Some travel agents claim that flight prices deterred their South African clients from exploring locally.

Durban based travel agent Jennifer Morris described the costs as horrendous.

"These airlines are taking advantage of the high demand for flights, and it's having a detrimental effect on the SA tourism industry.

"Travel agents like myself are faced with a terrible predicament. Many of my leisure clients say flying is out of their budget. When you think of it, if the flights are expensive, it leaves little for accommodation, activities or food.

"The high flight cost also impacts business travel. It makes it harder for struggling businesses to fly, which has a knock-on effect on the economy," she said.

Joburg travel agent Modipadi Phoku said the pandemic made travel unattainable for the average South African.

"The aftermath of the lockdown restrictions and effects of the pandemic itself has been detrimental to the economy. The country is seeing many more average households scramble into unsecured debt. And with flight tariffs high at the moment, the disposable income to purchase flights in the current markets is rarely there.

"However, people can still use the old tricks in the book to score themselves cheaper flights. For example, they can book in advance or choose less popular days of the week or low season months," she said.

Ever-changing

Oz Desai, the general manager at Corporate Traveller, said flight prices normalised again following July's level 4 price hike.

"We saw a slight increase in prices in July as a result of limited flights. Lift, BA Comair and Kulula.com all suspended flights during adjusted level 4. Mango also suspended their flights as the airline was placed under business rescue.

With only FlySafair, Airlink and Cemair in the skies, it was natural to see a slight upward trend in pricing.

"However, flight prices have normalised again with a return flight ticket between Joburg and Cape Town now well under R2 000.

“Accommodation remains very competitive with dynamic pricing available as accommodation establishments are still trying to stimulate demand," he said.

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