New air routes in South Africa

 ·17 May 2023

Domestic airline Airlink is scaling up its flights between Mbombela (Nelspruit) and Bloemfontein.

According to the airline, in response to market demand, the company is increasing flights between certain key destinations for local and international business and leisure travel.

“By scaling up Airlink’s schedule on these routes, we are giving customers more convenient choices and connections,” said Rodger Foster, the CEO of Airlink.

The CEO said that by adding more frequency, Airlink now operates more of the following flights:

  • Cape Town and Mbombela (Nelspruit) – Twice daily, six times a week.
  • Johannesburg and Mbombela (Nelspruit) – Eight return flights per day.
  • Johannesburg and Bloemfontein – Increasing the daily departures from three to four flights during the week from two to three flights daily over the weekend.

The CEO said the flights on these routes will be operated by Embraer Regional Jets. Airlink noted that on these routes, the airline offers a free 20kg economy class checked luggage allowance plus a free 15kg sporting equipment allowance.

These developments in air routes are not the first instance of the opening up of the air travel industry in South Africa.

Earlier this year, airline FlySafair was granted licences from the International Air Services Council (IASC) to open up three extra routes this year. IASC is the authoritative body that controls and grants licences for all domestic and international air services in South Africa.

FlySafair plans to establish flights to the following major areas:

  • Windhoek, Namibia
  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Zanzibar

South Africa’s air travel has been edging toward pre-pandemic levels over the past few years.

Patricia De Lille, the minister of tourism, in her latest briefing on tourism data, showed that the air industry is looking positive, with the first-quarter data reflecting a total of 2.1 million visitors, with many coming from abroad through air channels.

On top of this, De Lille noted the opening of new flights, including those between Cape Town to New York and Washington by United Airlines and Air China’s resumed direct flight to South Africa.

Despite the positive increase in domestic flight capacity and route, more demand for air travel has driven up the cost of flying.

Several factors have compounded the issue, such as a significant decrease in air capacity due to the liquidation of Comair, a steep rise of 80% in aviation fuel costs, and a surge in demand following the lifting of travel restrictions.

According to a Discovery Bank and Visa study, ticket prices for local flights in South Africa saw a substantial increase of 30% to 55% in 2022 compared to 2019.

Read: Good news for airports and airlines in South Africa

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