Aviation service provider Safair will launch its own scheduled airline, FlySafair, later this year after receiving approval from the South African Air Service Licensing Council. Tickets are expected to go on sale next month.
The carrier will offer up to ten flights a day between the key hubs of Cape Town and Johannesburg, using two Boeing 737-400 aircraft.
In a statement issued yesterday, Safair CEO Dave Andrew said Safair’s vast experience would be used to counter unfavourable market conditions. “Although many people have commented that the airline industry is an unfavourable environment for new entrants at the moment, we would like to remind the public that we have been flying commercially for almost half a century already and we have no doubt that FlySafair will only serve to further grow the domestic market.
“Owing to our reputation of success, we assert that our new carrier will operate proficiently, and offer the highest standards of excellence and service to our customers – all at a price that they can afford. We look forward to welcoming you onboard again,” Andrew said.
Safair has been going for nearly 50 years, providing aircraft leasing, charter, training and maintenance services. It has operated aircraft on behalf of numerous airlines when their aircraft have been out of service, giving it useful airline experience.
“We are extremely excited about this new chapter in Safair’s history and we look forward to further being of service to South Africa’s flying public,” said Andrew. “Having close to 50 years of aviation experience, along with our proven track record of excellence within the aviation industry, the launch of FlySafair represents a natural evolution of our business.”
South Africa has seen the demise of several local airlines over the last several years, namely Nationwide, Velvet Sky and 1Time. Nevertheless, other operators are planning to enter the market, including FastJet and Skywise. FastJet plans to begin flying between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Johannesburg late next month. Meanwhile Skywise, founded by former 1Time executives, hopes to receive its operating certificate at the end of this month and begin flights around September using a Boeing 737-300.
The head of Skywise, Rodney James, said that after the demise of 1Time, other budget airlines pushed their prices up, resulting in a drop in domestic flights – the Airports Company of South Africa reported a 5% drop in domestic traffic between May and June this year. For this reason he believes there is strong demand for additional budget carriers in South Africa.
Earlier this year the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that African airlines continue to be the weakest performers in the global airline market, with passenger load factors below 70%, operating margins averaging less than 1% and profits of just $100 million this year. However, IATA noted that, compared with the $100 million loss of 2012, African airlines will perform better this year.
“African passenger capacity growth (6.7%) is expected to be outstripped by demand growth of 7.5%,” IATA said. “This will improve load factors. The region’s airlines continue to face high operating costs, especially for fuel, which is on average 21% more costly than in other parts of the world. Long haul services face stiff competition from carriers outside the region, while significant aero-political barriers still stand in the way of enhanced regional connectivity.”