Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mango goes green with new aircraft

Cape Town - SAA’s low cost division, Mango, will take delivery of the first of two more Boeings next month. The airline is also investigating new domestic and regional routes in addition to increasing the number of flights on the Golden Triangle between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, helping to ease a shortage since 1Time stopped flying in December. It has applied to start scheduled services to two destinations in East Africa.

It flies to its first destination outside South Africa – Zanzibar – to which it operates charter flights for a travel company.

It plans to set up a permanent base at Durban Airport later this year which will enable it to increase its services from there.

The seats in its new Boeings will be lighter, in support of its campaign to reduce the total weight of its aircraft, resulting in a reduction of CO2 emissions. It has already reduced the weight of its entire fleet by 270kg per aircraft and will achieve further savings by installing the new lighter seats.


SAA has finally given details of the additional destinations to which it can sell tickets through its codesharing arrangements with Middle Eastern airline Eitihad and, to my relief, none of them are in Europe.

Nico Bezuidenhout, when acting chief executive of SAA, gave me an assurance that SAA would not withdraw from any of its few remaining European destinations by serving them through a codeshare arrangement under which its passengers would be carried by another airline while SAA received a portion of the fare.

The codeshare destinations for which it has already received regulatory approval are Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to which Etihad will carry South African passengers from Johannesburg. It does not fly from Cape Town. We can also fly to Bangkok directly from Joburg with Thai Airways.

Three other destinations for which regulatory approval is pending are Shanghai, Singapore and Jeddah.

Capetonians are unlikely to take advantage of the codeshare flights to Singapore, unless they are anxious to earn points on SAA’s frequent flyer program, because Singapore Airlines flies from Cape Town International Airport.

In return, SAA will carry Etihad passengers to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. It is waiting for regulatory approval to add Livingstone, Lusaka, Ndola, Harare and Victoria Falls to the list.

Kevin Knight, Etihad’s chief strategy and planning officer, explained that the codeshare arrangements were sought by his airline to meet growing demand for business and leisure travel to African destinations. He said business travel between the Middle East and major emerging markets in Africa, Asia, India and Australia was growing.

A threatened strike against SAA by the ground and cabin staff belonging to the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union and the United Association of SA has been called off after the airline unilaterally announced that it was granting a pay rise of 6.23 percent, effective from April 1. This is higher than its original offer of 6.02 percent but below the unions’ demand for 7.5 percent on total remuneration including special allowances. The rise offered by SAA excludes allowances.

Ironically, members of a new union, the National Transport Movement, which SAA initially refused to recognize, would not have joined the strike and, with some staff who do not belong to any union, would have enabled some flights to continue.

It’s a relief for passengers that they will not be inconvenienced. But, unfortunately, the strike threat will have done some damage because, knowing that it was a possibility, some passengers must have switched to other airlines during the past week, or cancelled or postponed flights.

The high arrival and departures tax charged by the British government has caused some canny passengers to fly to continental airports and enter Britain by train or ferry, avoiding the charge. Now it has been agreed that German trains can also travel through the undersea channel tunnel – but starting only next year.

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