South African airlines are doing everything they can to attract customers, like slashing prices and allowing passengers to take their dogs on a flight with them.
The airline industry took a tremendous knock in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel bans.
It resulted in the death of South African Airways (SAA) while Comair, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways in South Africa, entered into voluntary business rescue proceedings in May 2020.
Towards the end of last year, the Comair Rescue Consortium injected fresh equity of R500-million into the airline which allowed it to take to the skies again after an eight-month absence.
Kulula.com and British Airways resumed services on 1 December 2020 under new CEO Glenn Orsmond.
“Seeing Comair aircraft back in the skies signals the beginning of the end of one of the most complex and high-profile corporate restructurings in South Africa,” said business rescue practitioner Richard Ferguson.
Kulula.com is a well-known and loved brand in South Africa, but within two weeks of operating again it faced competition from newcomer Lift.
On 10 December 2020, Lift started flying with routes between Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Johannesburg and George.
Although many people questioned the wisdom of starting a new airline during a pandemic, Lift founder Gidon Novick was confident it was the right move.
He previously founded and ran Kulula.com, which means he knows what worked and what needs to be done to succeed.
Lift’s biggest value proposition is flexibility, where clients can change or cancel tickets without any penalty.
Lift and Kulula.com joined other local airlines, including FlySafair and Airlink, to serve South African travellers.
Just as the South African travel industry started to recover in December, the second COVID-19 wave hit. Numbers dropped off rapidly.
Novick said they saw a significant decline in demand for flights in January.
This lower demand forced airlines to find ways to fill seats. The easiest way was to cut prices, and British Airways launched two seat sales in the past few months.
In its latest sale, which ends today, British Airways is offering the discounts below on local flights:
- Johannesburg to East London from R499.
- Johannesburg to Durban from R519.
- Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth from R579.
- Cape Town to East London from R599.
- Cape Town to Port Elizabeth from R639.
- Johannesburg to Cape Town from R679.
- Durban to Cape Town from R679.
The discounted fares are available for travel between April 2021 and November 2021.
This sale followed the airline’s introduction of new booking options in January which give customers the flexibility to change the dates and destination of a booking without any change fee.
“The airline’s book with confidence commitment allows customers to adapt to unforeseen circumstances as they need to,” said British Airways’ sales and marketing executive, Brian Kitchin.
The additional flexibility is clearly aimed at Lift which has been offering flexible bookings to travellers from launch.
Lift is, however, not sitting back. It has created a unique offering which allows travellers to fly with their small dogs.
“Your dog will now be able to travel in a pet-friendly carry bag placed under the seat in front of you,” Lift said.
“This is a first for local travel‚ and we couldn’t be more excited to have little paws flying with Lift.”
The airline put people who are allergic to dogs or simply don’t like them at ease.
“Only a limited number of pets are allowed to travel on selected flights‚ and a rigorous cleaning schedule is conducted in between flights,” it said.
Lift said larger dogs and other pets are not currently allowed on its flights, but added that people should “watch this space”.
The battle between airlines to fill seats is good news for consumers who benefit from lower prices, more flexibility, and other benefits.