Cape Town – We will increasingly find ourselves flying in brand new, more comfortable and larger aircraft in the next few years as airlines replace their fleets with new models using less fuel and causing less pollution. Both the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, European Airbus and American Boeing, ended last year with record orders.
Their largest customers are Middle Eastern airlines Emirates, which flies to both Cape Town and Joburg, and Etihad, which flies to Joburg, both offering connecting flights to an increasing number of destinations from their home airports in the United Arab Emirates.
But other airlines flying into Cape Town offer direct flights to their home airports in the UK, continental Europe, Singapore and Turkey, so we are spoiled for choice without having to go overseas by way of Joburg.
Airbus is currently in the process of manufacturing and delivering the rest of SAA’s new fleet of 20 A320 single-aisle aircraft to be used on domestic and regional services. It is also hoping our national carrier will order its new Airbus A350 extra-wide-bodied aircraft, which are now undergoing test flights. The first of these are expected to come into service in the fourth quarter of this year.
But Boeing is also offering its new Dreamliner, which 16 airlines are already flying. SAA appears to be preparing for new competition in the domestic market by announcing new codesharing arrangements with its low-cost division Mango, which will increase the number of flights it offers to local destinations. I thought this meant that it would be diverting more of its fleet to serve new destinations in Africa, where it is growing its network. It seems this is not the case.
In addition to SAA’s full-service flights, it has extended its codesharing for Mango to carry some of its passengers between Cape Town and Joburg, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. But if you find yourself booking one of these codeshare flights, specify that you are doing so as an SAA passenger, entering the SAA code number for Voyager points since Mango does not share in the national carrier’s loyalty programme.
Both Skywise, the new airline and the original founders of low-cost airline 1Time, and FlySafari, are waiting for their operating licences to be granted by the Air Licensing Council. Skywise, which has already leased new aircraft, has been waiting a long time for the licence. FlySafari prepared to launch last year, attracting heavy bookings, but was prevented from doing so because it did not meet the requirement that its controlling shareholders had to be South African, residing in this country. It applied for a new operating licence after launching a staff shareholding scheme which it claims meets the requirement, but Comair has suggested that the new, complicated shareholding structure still leaves control in the hands of Irish investors.
I badly misjudged the effect of a press release from British Airways last year, sent with pictures of rugby Springbok Bryan Habana racing against the airline’s newly delivered Airbus A380 as it gathered speed for take-off, which I dismissed as a silly stunt. In fact it attracted thousands of viewers worldwide, together with generous donations, when shown on YouTube in conjunction with the information that Habana is a patron of FoodBank, an organisation providing food to malnourished families in this country. BA responded by donating two business class tickets worth R60 000 to be auctioned in aid of Foodbank.
Shortly before BA starts using the A380 on its London to Joburg route next month, it has issued a challenge to YouTube viewers to emulate Habana’s effort, in which he won against the plane (unfortunately his speed was not enough to enable him to take off beside it). So far it has attracted almost 2 million views.
The five most successful contenders will be flown to Durban, “from anywhere in the world”, according to BA and when the video clip has been called up on YouTube for the 2 millionth time, which is expected to happen very soon, the airline will donate two more of the tickets to be auctioned for FoodBank. The organisation provides nutritious food to depots in areas where there are numbers of starving people for distribution by volunteers.
Air France was the first airline to use the A 380 to Joburg, followed by German airline Lufthansa, and the space, comfort and reduced engine noise have proved sufficient to overcome Capetonians’ dislike of having to change planes at OR Tambo Airport instead of flying from their own airport, as it is still possible to do for those bound for Paris during the summer months when Air France offers seasonal flights from Cape Town and Condor flies from here to Frankfurt. BA, however, flies non-stop from Cape Town to London all year round, so it will be interesting to see if the attraction of the A380 is sufficient to make local people go by way of Joburg at least once. – Weekend Argus