According to Jonathan Avache, CEO of Lift, it’s expected for prices to increase around December, especially with ongoing capacity constraints and increased fuel prices in play. Yet, he claims, prices are still not as high as they could be.
According to Kirby Gordon, CMO of FlySafair, the market has lost 9,000 seats every week since the demise of Comair, taking the national domestic carrier capacity to 900,000 from the previous 1,200,000.
Comair isn’t the only contributing factor to the dire shortage; the domestic travel market also lost SA Express, Mango, and Kulula in the wake of Covid. SAA is back, but in a very limited capacity.
With passenger levels currently at 70% of pre-Covid levels, those wanting to book domestic flights can expect a rough ride as things pick up again.
It costs a fortune to run an airline, and there are currently several factors driving these operational costs up.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a major driver behind rising fuel costs globally, but Saudi Arabia and Russia’s determination to fix oil prices and drop production are only adding to the difficulties.
Oil prices naturally have a huge impact on the cost of jet fuel and ticket prices. Previously, airlines would review their prices weekly, now they’re having to adjust fares continuously as prices fluctuate.
As long as tensions in the Ukraine persist, airlines will continue to encounter these difficulties, regardless of supply and demand.
There’s also good news in the wake of the pandemic, but it comes with a sting in the tail. Demand for flights to South Africa for international travellers has increased by 40% since travel restrictions ended.
This bodes well for the tourism industry and the economy, but it also means more competition for domestic flights, which are already severely constrained. Greater demand and low supply mean higher prices in any industry.
FlySafair’s Gordon Kirby predicts that prices should stabilise toward the end of January, although that also depends on the above unpredictable factors.
Truly cheap flights might remain a distant memory in the foreseeable future, with only Safair flight bookings from Durban to Johannesburg available for under R1,000.
The only way to ensure you fly as cheaply as possible is to forget brand loyalty and compare prices on all SA Airlines when planning your trip.
These are the current costs of the cheapest non-stop, one-way flights for one person between major centres on South Africa’s main airlines. Prices are according to the flight comparison engine, https://www.sa-airlines.co.za/ for 11 January 2023, which is outside of the peak season:
The days of budget travel are long gone, but there are still ways to book cheaper flights if you plan ahead.
Always book as early as you can, prices escalate closer to your departure time. At least three months in advance is the latest you can risk booking your flights, but the sooner the better.
If business or holiday plans allow for it, plan your flights on cheaper days, especially on busy routes like Johannesburg to Cape Town. Avoid flying close to public holidays or during peak holiday season.
Finally, don’t stay loyal to one carrier, compare costs across all airlines when planning your trip, smaller, more cost-effective planes mean cheaper tickets.