Cape Town – The tourism sector, as well as some South Africans who remain stuck abroad and were hoping to capitalise on cheaper airfare, are waiting with baited breath to see which countries will be on the no-go list.
While the country is open to all 54 countries in the region, it remains to be seen how many regional airlines will begin operating from October.
Cape Town Air Access said while they expect some flights to start on October 1, operations will only start picking up from October 24 with more frequency expected in December.
Commercial flights are now much cheaper than repatriation flights whose prices ranged from anything from R20 000 to R50 000 depending on the route.
Air France and KLM have already announced they will be resuming commercial flights to South Africa on October 1, mainly from Johannesburg while a flight to Paris from Cape Town will begin on December 5, at around R9 000 for a one-way ticket and operate three times a night while KLM will resume operations from December 7, six times a week to Amsterdam at just over R10 000.
In a statement the airlines said passengers who had booked a repatriation ticket with Air France or KLM and have not used it will be able to use the full value of the ticket to buy commercial tickets.
Ethiopian Airlines’ booking system also appears to be accepting bookings from Cape Town International from October 1, from just over R6 000 on single trip to Addis Ababa.
For some South Africans who have been stuck abroad but unable to make their way home due to the high cost of some repatriation flights, there are mixed feelings around what will happen once there is clarity on which countries are permitted.
“I am in the UK and have been patiently waiting for commercial flights to open but at this rate it looks like I will have to wait for the British government to sort out its own decisions on whether to institute a national lockdown due to higher infections this side,” said 36-year-old Kimberly Martins.
Cape Town Air Access’s David King said they were in talks with airlines which had announced new routes to Cape Town to ensure they would retain the route.
These include the Virgin Atlantic flight announced in February this year which was meant to begin operations on October 25 between Cape Town and London, will have its maiden trip in December.
The Delta Air Lines flight scheduled to begin its triangular route of flying from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Atlanta meant to begin on in October is also moved to December.
“Air Portugal which would have been a new flight coming in has postponed it to 2021 due to the uncertainty around which countries will be allowed in,” he said.
“We must work now to get passenger confidence back because we can have as many flights scheduled to fly but it won’t work without passengers to fill those seats.”
Chief executive of Cape Town International Airport Deon Cloete said having already operated repatriation flights for 20 000 passengers, they were confident of the return of regular airlines.
“We expect to see a build-up in terms of frequency of flights but the time is right as we are entering our peak season in Cape Town,” he said.
“Before lockdown we would do 35 000 to 45 000 passengers a day, when we started with domestic and it was a very humbling experienced where on the first day we had four flights a day. We are back to about 20% of where we were.”
Cloete said they expect to make a 40% recovery on passenger numbers coming and going through the airport as past figures indicate that prior to lockdown the airport saw 11 million passengers annually.
The government’s much anticipated announcement on which countries will not be permitted entry has the tourism sector scrambling to find new ways to attract new travellers to visit.
For the Western Cape, whose key source markets included the UK, Germany and USA which are still grappling with containing the coronavirus, work is underway to gain grounds from countries within Africa where there are no restrictions.
On Friday, Minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said 18 of the already operational land borders will be allowed to extend entry to the country for any reason while another 35 land borders remain closed.
Cruise-ships have also been banned from operating or offloading passengers at any of the country’s ports.
Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said earlier this week for every day international travel was banned the sector lost out on R334m in spending.
“Opening up our Tourism sector will have a direct and immediately positive impact on government’s coffers at a time when it most needs it,” he said.
Western Cape MEC for Tourism and Economic Development, David Maynier said while some key source markets might not be on the allowed list, plans were already underway in the sector to ensure that other opportunities are sought regionally.
“We await the regulations and certainty about which source markets will be permitted but we are seeing is the industry already started to adapt, I was out with a major tourism company which had already anticipated that some markets may be on the no-fly list and they were already starting to look very carefully at other markets including those in the region,” he said.
“I think there are huge opportunities in Angola, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya to start to expand and look at other markets and the sector is already doing that. We are also starting to focus our campaigns not only on domestic travel but are expanding to the international markets to look at potential new markers.”