Cape Town – British Airways, which provides the only direct flights from Cape Town to London in winter, will double its service to two a day during the summer season, starting on October 27. It will start using one of its new giant Airbus A380 aircraft on the Johannesburg to London route on February 12 and local passengers can already book seats on it.
It is also improving its lounges at Cape Town and Johannesburg airports to match the Terraces lounges at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. It has already taken over the space in Cape Town Airport’s international terminal left vacant when SAA withdrew its flights from here to London, its last remaining overseas flight from Cape Town.
BA is also increasing its flights from London to Uganda, Ghana and Libya.
BA is among an increasing number of airlines flying to Africa. The continent’s growing middle class is flying overseas, while more business travellers are flying in.
According to BA’s regional manager, Gavin Halliday, two of its 18 destinations on the continent, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, were formerly served by BMI, which BA bought from Germany’s Lufthansa.
Fear of tourist drop-off
SAA, of course, is also enlarging its route network into Africa – one of the reasons it withdrew its non-stop service from Cape Town to London, to use the aircraft on more regional flights.
Besides infuriating the many Capetonians who travel to London, the withdrawal has sparked fears that it might affect the number of British tourists coming here, even though many British people arrive on airlines from continental Europe as well as with BA and, in the summer season, with Virgin Atlantic.
Flight demand rising
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) reports that demand for air travel is continuing to increase in all regions except Brazil, with Europe performing strongly as its economies continue their recovery.
Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of Iata, says the recovery of the euro zone from its recession has provided the biggest boost over the past 18 months, while the slowdown of the Chinese economy has affected emerging markets in Asia.
However, he warns that the price of fuel – a huge cost for airlines – is tracking political tensions in the Middle East.
Mango’s in George
SAA’s low-cost airline, Mango, will introduce a new route between Johannesburg and George in November, aimed at bringing more tourists to the Garden Route.
Mango’s chief executive, Nico Bezuidenhout, says the two new routes it started last December, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, have been performing particularly well, proving that they are useful not only for people working in Cape Town and Johannesburg who visit family in the Eastern Cape over the Christmas holidays, but also for leisure travellers along the coast.
Mango has completed its contract to carry passengers between Johannesburg and Zanzibar, entered into when 1Time, which pioneered the service, went out of business. It is preparing to start a scheduled service on the route.
Mango announced earlier this year that it was planning other routes to coastal destinations but has not released any further information. However, the long-term plans for SAA, SA Express and Mango, prepared by a team headed by Bezuidenhout last year, included more routes to be served by Mango outside South Africa. – Weekend Argus