FlySafair beats Lift and Airlink in South African flight prices

FlySafair is the cheapest domestic airline in South Africa, and by some margin on specific routes, a MyBroadband analysis has revealed.

The airline’s fares are R840 and R566 lower than its nearest competitor on the Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to George routes.

While still cheaper than the rest for those flying between Johannesburg and Durban, the price difference was far less significant for the route.

South Africa’s airline industry has suffered several shake-ups in recent years, with South African Airways (SAA) still wobbling on its feet after a business rescue and Comair ceasing its operations in the country.

In May 2022, it was revealed that South Africa sold a 51% share in SAA to Takatso Consortium for R51.

The deal was skewed heavily in favour of Takatso, with the association having the right to assess whether the government must settle any ongoing liabilities in SAA.

The airline used to serve destinations across Africa and several major global cities but hasn’t made money since 2011, and has cost taxpayers dearly in the form of billions of rands in government bailouts.

A little-known legal firm opened an application to sue the South African government over the deal, which it wanted to be scrapped and re-run due to a lack of transparency.

Despite the lack of transparency, SAA is set to receive a bailout of R1 billion from the government’s 2023/24 budget. Finance minister Enoch Godongwana announced this in his 2023 budget speech.

“R1 billion is allocated to South African Airways to assist the carrier with the business rescue process,” Godongwana said.

Another factor impacting the South African flight industry is the demise of low-cost airline Kulula after parent company Comair ceased operations.

Comair handled around 40% of the country’s domestic flight volume — including British Airways flights — on its operated routes.

The company announced that Kulula was beyond rescue in June 2022.

“Regrettably, the requisite funding could not be raised in order for the company to continue with its operations,” the company said in a statement.

“Accordingly, the company’s joint business rescue practitioners give notice herewith that they no longer believe that there is a reasonable prospect that the company can be rescued.”

Flight price comparison

FlySafair is the cheapest domestic airline across the board on the three routes we selected for the comparison — Johannesburg to Durban, Cape Town, and George.

We selected the lowest available outgoing and return fares for each airline, with flights leaving on 22 March 2023 and returning on the 24th.

FlySafair is the cheapest by some margin on the Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to George routes.

However, Lift and SAA don’t currently fly between Johannesburg and George, meaning the comparison for that route was only between FlySafair and Airlink.

FlySafair was also the cheapest on the Johannesburg to Durban route but only by just over R200 for the round-trip.

Lift was the second-most affordable for the route at R1,670 return. FlySafair’s fares total R1,462.

SAA is the second most affordable on the Johannesburg to Cape Town route, with its round-trip coming in at R3,803.02 —  R201.98 less than Lift’s fare and R805 less than Airlink’s.

South Africans can save almost R600 on their next trip to George if they opt for FlySafair over Airlink. However, the savings will be significantly less if they opt to check in baggage.

SAA and Airlink include the cost of one checked bag in their fares. Lift and FlySafair charge an additional fee for checked baggage, depending on the booking tier chosen.

A comparison of flight prices for the three routes is summarised in the table below.

Johannesburg ↔ Cape Town
Airline Outgoing Return Total
FlySafair R1,532.00 R1,431.00 R2,963.00
SAA R1,786.51 R2,016.51 R3,803.02
Lift R1,910.00 R2,095.00 R4,005.00
Airlink R2,154.51 R2,453.51 R4,608.02
Johannesburg ↔ Durban
FlySafair R731.00 R731.00 R1,462.00
Lift R835.00 R835.00 R1,670.00
Airlink R929.01 R1,113.01 R2,042.02
SAA R847.01 R1,261.01 R2,108.02
Johannesburg ↔ George
Lift Lift and SAA don’t currently offer this route
FlySafair R1,031.00 R1,431.00 R2,462.00
Airlink R1,324.51 R1,704.01 R3,028.52

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FlySafair beats Lift and Airlink in South African flight prices