Chief marketing officer of FlySafair Kirby Gordon said many factors determine the cost of a flight, including the date and time the passenger books. Picture: Supplied.
Chief marketing officer of FlySafair Kirby Gordon said many factors determine the cost of a flight, including the date and time the passenger books. Picture: Supplied.

The high cost of SA airfare tickets debate: Part 2

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Aug 18, 2021

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In part 1 of this series, Clinton Moodley consulted travel agents. Here, he gets to the nuts of bolts of things when chatting to domestic airlines.

The airlines explain

Chief marketing officer of FlySafair Kirby Gordon said many factors determine the cost of a flight, including the date and time the passenger books.

“Pricing is quite complex and 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 skyrockets. 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.

He said booking lead times skewed people’s perceptions of pricing.

"Savvy travellers always book ahead and get the best deals, but the world is so uncertain at the moment and we’re never sure when the next wave is due to hit. What we have seen is a dramatic shortening in the average lead time between booking and departure. Last-minute bookings are expensive.

“We encourage people to book in advance to get better prices, even if you need to spring out a bit more for those more flexible tickets. Chances are that you’ll still save versus waiting until the last minute," he said.

Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink, said the airline industry had to endure many factors to keep its doors open. These include airlines' input costs, rise in fuel prices and vulnerability to external factors such as civil unrest and economic policy uncertainty.

"We have also seen a reduction in capacity or supply on some routes in the market, with the absence of Kulula, BA-Comair, SAA, SA Express and more recently Mango. As a result, the remaining cheaper fare seats are selling out faster.

"The combination of Covid, the arbitrariness of travel restrictions in many other countries and so many airlines either suspending operations or going out of business, has changed customers’ travel booking behaviour.

“Many people are unwilling to book their flights more than a day or two in advance instead of weeks or months ahead of when they want to travel. This last-minute purchasing also causes cheap seats to sell out faster," he said.

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