Cheapest days to fly to Cape Town, Joburg, and Durban – and other destinations

 ·17 Apr 2024

The cheapest time to fly from Joburg to Cape Town is on Sunday mornings, while in the evenings on a Wednesday if you travel to Durban.

This is according to Discovery Bank’s SpendTrend24 report, compiled in collaboration with Visa, which detailed South Africans’ travel patterns and trends.

This included the cheapest days to fly between South Africa’s major cities, how costs have changed, and our favourite international destinations in 2023.

In 2023, South Africa’s “Golden Triangle” – Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban – was the top location for local travellers.

According to Discovery, approximately 33% of all domestic flight tickets purchased by their clients were for Cape Town, which is a 1% decrease compared to 2022.

Johannesburg accounted for 31% of all flights, representing a 2% drop, while Durban represented 19% and remained unchanged in demand compared to the previous year.

The financial institution also noted a trend of people moving from inland areas to cities along the East Coast’s Garden Route.

As a result, towns such as George, Gqeberha, and East London saw an increase in tourists last year, securing 6%, 5%, and 2% of all flight tickets, respectively.

Cheapest day and time

The cheapest time to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town is on Sunday mornings at 05:00, while the most expensive time is on Friday afternoons at 16:00.

For the return flight, the most affordable option from Cape Town to Johannesburg is on Wednesday evenings at 21:00, and the most expensive flight is on Sunday afternoons at 12:00.

For those travelling from Johannesburg to Durban, the most economical rates are at 06:00 on Sundays, while the most expensive ones are at 13:00 on Fridays.

On the other hand, the cheapest rates for flights from Durban to Johannesburg are available at 9:00 pm on Wednesdays, while the most expensive ones are at 4:00 pm on Sundays.

According to Discovery, flight prices on popular routes like Johannesburg to Cape Town are primarily influenced by demand.

Therefore, passengers often have to pay higher fares during peak times than off-peak periods.

To help travellers plan their trips better, Discovery has analysed its data to identify the days when it is cheapest and most expensive to fly to South Africa’s favourite tourist and business destinations.

RouteCheapest dayMost expensive dayAverage difference
Johannesburg to Cape TownTuesdayFriday+32%
Cape Town to JohannesburgSaturdaySunday+32%
Johannesburg to DurbanTuesdayFriday+45%
Durban to JohannesburgWednesdaySunday+35%
Johannesburg to GeorgeMondayFriday+28%
George to JohannesburgWednesdaySunday+27%
Cape Town to DurbanWednesdaySunday+20%
Durban to Cape TownTuesdayFriday+18%

Favourite overseas destinations

In 2023, South African travellers mostly flew to the United Kingdom, accounting for 23% of all flights. Mauritius was the second most popular destination at 7%, followed by France at 6%.

Among these countries, France and Mauritius experienced the highest increase in incoming visitors at 2% and 3% respectively.

This increase was attributed to the Rugby World Cup hosted in France and an increased supply of flights to Mauritius, according to Discovery Bank.

The table below shows the main global destinations for South Africans in 2023, as outlined by Discovery Bank.

LocationShare in tickets purchasedChange
United Kingdom23%-4%
New Zealand1%0%

Air ticket prices

The price of flight tickets in 2023 remained stable and even decreased in some cases when compared to the previous year. This was a result of the lockdown restrictions being lifted around the world.

However, many international routes saw price increases due to a rise in demand and other factors, such as rampant jet fuel prices and the rand-dollar exchange rate.

The table below shows the average cost of one-way domestic flights in 2023 versus 2022.

RouteOne-way ticket in 2022One-way ticket in 2023Change
Johannesburg to Cape TownR1 720R1 700-1%
Johannesburg to DurbanR1 090R1 040-5%
Cape Town to DurbanR1 770R1 810+2%
Cape Town to GeorgeR1 780R1 720-3%
George to JohannesburgR1 580R1 760+11%

The average cost of return international flights in 2023 versus 2022, as provided by Discovery Bank, were as follows:

RouteReturn ticket in 2022Return ticket in 2023Change
South Africa to UKR16 340R20 510+26%
South Africa to MauritiusR6 390R10 840+70%
South Africa to UAER13 980R16 660+19%
South Africa to AustraliaR26 200R32 190+23%

Read: Semigration wave in South Africa – where people are moving

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