Without low cost airlines serving the South African market, many people would be unable to fly to the destination of their choice. That being said, just how reliable have low cost carriers been in SA over the years? The South African travel and transportation industries have certainly had their fair share of troubles when it comes to the start-up and failure of various low cost carriers in the country.
During the period from 2012 to 2014, the budget airline market was characterised by a succession of false starts as well as legal and regulatory woes, not to mention monopolistic territory marking by existing South African Airlines, such as SAA, Mango Airlines, Comair, and Kulula.com.
While low cost airlines such as FlySafair and Fastjet, airlines were keeping the market waiting in 2014, a new ad hoc charter airline, Global Airways, took to the sky before June that same year. And that's when the competition really began! That being said, Global Airways was anything but cheap. In March 2014, another charter airline, Fly Cemair, launched flights from OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg to Plettenberg Bay, with a Cape Town flight route launching at the same time. What everyone wanted to know was if they were here to stay and what was really taking the other low cost carriers so long to launch?
While some low cost airlines experienced delays in their start-ups due to cancelled Air Service Licenses (Skywise), legal challenges relating to South African ownership requirements (FlySafair), and significant opposition from existing domestic airlines (FastJet), all hope was not lost. South Africa now, in 2018, enjoys the service of a number of low cost carriers that managed to launch and remain valuable service providers to the SA market.
In 2018, the following low cost carriers are operating in full swing in SA:
Unfortunately, several low cost carriers in South Africa have all gone bankrupt in the intervening years:
At this stage, it does not look like any other low cost carriers have designs to launch routes in South Africa.
One of the biggest problems for low cost carriers in SA in 2018 is competition. With large carriers such as SAA and British Airways having their own associated low cost carriers, the competition is not only rife, but also a little unfair for some.
Just this year, the industry was taken aback as two leading low cost carriers, FlySafair and SA Airlink, proposed a merger. The merger was first announced in November 2017, but was not a welcomed proposal for the Competition Commission. The commission is rightfully concerned that a merger between these two carriers will result in a noticeable prevention of competition. According to the commission, the merger will remove a competitor to SA Airlink and because FlySafair offers competitive pricing on similar, routes, it would most likely result in substantial price increases.
It seems that while South African travellers were disappointed just a few years ago by seemingly empty promises from low cost carriers, a number of airlines have come to the fore!
With SA-Airlines, Mango, FlySafair, Kulula.com, and FastJet offering affordable domestic flights across South Africa along with consistent routes, there is certainly something to smile about!
While that may be true, with competition at risk, who knows what's really in store for affordable air travel in SA. In a statement given by the airlines when announcing their disagreement with the decision's fears, it was said "We firmly believe the proposed transaction will be beneficial, not only for the two companies, but for their customers, employees, suppliers, the local and regional air transport markets as well as the broader South African economy,".
It looks like no one really knows what's in store in the upcoming months!
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