How FlySafair makes sure it is the most on-time airline in South Africa

FlySafair was recently named the regional airline with the best on-time performance across the Middle East and Africa.

The honour comes from the OAG Punctuality League, an annual report from OAG Aviation that measures the on-time performance (OTP) of airlines around the world. OAG released its 2020 report in the first week of January.

OAG measured FlySafair’s on-time performance at 94.4%. This means that 94.4% of FlySafair’s flights departed and arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled times.

Safair’s next closest competitor in the Middle East and Africa was Etihad Airways, with an OTP of 83.4%.

The only airline with a better OTP than FlySafair was Garuda Indonesia, which achieved an on-time performance of 95.01% in 2019.

This raises the question: what does FlySafair do differently to be on time?

Longer, variable flight times

A quick search and comparison of FlySafair’s flight times to those of Mango and Kulula reveals interesting differences.

When booking a flight from Lanseria to Cape Town airport, all Kulula flights have a scheduled duration of 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Similarly, all Mango flights from Lanseria to Cape Town are scheduled to take 2 hours and 15 minutes.

FlySafair takes a different approach, as shown in the screenshot below.

Its first flight of the day from Lanseria to Cape Town is scheduled to take 2 hours and 20 minutes. The afternoon flight is 2 hours and 15 minutes, while the evening flight is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

For the return flights, Kulula and Mango both schedule their flights to take 1 hour and 55 minutes from Cape Town to Lanseria.

FlySafair uses a flight time of 2 hours and 5 minutes in the morning and evening. For its late morning/afternoon flight from Cape Town, FlySafair schedules its flight to take 2 hours and 15 minutes.

When comparing the duration of flights between other airports, a trend starts to emerge.

Mango and Kulula use fixed flight times, while FlySafair schedules variable flight times that are often longer than those of its competitors.

Screenshot of FlySafair flights from HLA to CPT, taken in January 2020
(Click to enlarge)

Maintenance is our true strength

Asked about their strategy of using variable and longer flight times, FlySafair’s VP of sales and distribution, Kirby Gordon, said their flight times change due to slot availability.

“We don’t always get the slots to land that would perfectly match the scheduled departure,” Gordon said. “Usually we can get in when we need to.”

Gordon explained that the OAG report doesn’t just measure the punctuality of arrivals, but also of departures.

“Sure, getting in earlier is a help, but you’ve agreed with your passengers to leave at a certain time.”

Gordon said that there is, therefore, no way to gain with departure times – you either leave within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, or it gets marked as “late”.

“We also operate on 25-minute turns,” Gordon said.

“That is 25 minutes from arrival to the next departure, which is much shorter than the standard 40-60 minutes. Even if we do score a few minutes, it doesn’t give us much advantage over any others.”

Gordon said that FlySafair’s strength in South Africa is the fact that it does its own maintenance.

“[We have] a very strong technical dispatch reliability score to support the [OAG] statistics.”

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How FlySafair makes sure it is the most on-time airline in South Africa