This week saw the launch of a new domestic carrier, Lift, spearheaded by aviation veteran Gidon Novick, as well as the announcement by Comair that both kulula.com and BA Comair would reopen bookings for flights from December. This brings the total number of local carriers to seven.
“We can expect that the increased supply will not only boost demand; it will also drive down airline prices,” says Andrew Stark, MD Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa. “More importantly, however, we can expect that this new low-cost carrier in the aviation space will disrupt the market and push the boundaries on terms and conditions as well as booking flexibility.”
“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Flight Centre Travel Group has always maintained that we need to throw the rulebook out the window and do things very differently. We have advocated strongly with our suppliers that there should be leniency around terms and conditions. We are encouraged by Lift’s flexible terms and conditions around date changes,” adds Stark.
“The increased aviation capacity is very welcome news for us, giving our customers more choice domestically and competitive rates in the domestic market. Flight Centre Travel Group has trade relationships with all seven domestic carriers and can therefore offer its clients the widest choice both online and through our networks.”
The new airline and choice of low-cost options have arrived just in time for the December holiday period. Sue Garrett, GM Product and Marketing at the Flight Centre Travel Groupreports that the group’s leisure travel passenger numbers are at around 30% of last year’s December bookings.
“This is a great recovery given the uncertainty we are still faced with this year. This figure is an indication that South African leisure travellers are far more willing to book a holiday than what we first predicted.
“The majority of South Africans are choosing a local holiday this festive season. We believe this is the right approach, given the uncertainty around quarantine restrictions, border closures and the constant changes when it comes to travel beyond our borders, as well as the fact that it gives a much-needed boost to the local hospitality and tourism sectors,” adds Garrett.
Business travel has also seen a revival with more than half of business travellers having taken back to the road and the skies. Increased domestic capacity is a positive development for the corporate market. However, airlines can expect to undergo thorough scrutiny in the months to come. Duty of Care, which includes risk management, traveller health and safety, and traveller tracking has emerged as the top priority for 2021 and well into the future.
“Travel managers are likely to insist on elaborate information with regards to safety protocols, business viability and booking conditions. We can see a future where suppliers will be rated on their ability to efficiently and effectively implement and manage new measures such as contactless check-in and check-out, physical distancing, deep cleaning between guest stays, digital key room access, pre-boarding health screening, new boarding protocols and contactless rental car pick-up,” says Bonnie Smith, GM FCM Travel Solutions.
“Ironically, there has probably never been a better time to introduce a new carrier to the South African aviation landscape,” adds Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller. “More than half of corporations are planning to review their airline supply strategy post-COVID. Increased capacity in the aviation market will allow South African travel buyers to make choices that best suit their needs and requirements.”
“COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-lifetime shift that has allowed businesses to re-write the rule books. It will be exciting to see how this shift in the domestic market evolves towards a more customer-centric travel landscape,” concludes Desai.