The South African Domestic Passenger Aviation market is showing signs of recovery and stabilisation, as available seats on the domestic market have returned to nearly 80% of the pre-pandemic 2019 benchmark figures.
Image: Justin de Reuck
While a return to 100% would be welcome, the current figures signify the market’s renewed equilibrium.
Several factors that are influencing this stabilisation, include weakened national economic performance, high unemployment rates, and the rising cost of living for consumers coupled with increased interest rates.
For airlines, operational costs have soared due to higher fuel prices and the fluctuating rand-dollar exchange rate. FlySafair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kirby Gordon, commented on the current market scenario, “The aviation industry has indeed witnessed significant changes over the past three years, with some brands bowing out. However, today’s market remains just as competitive with five companies, each operating a single brand.”
Gordon further pointed out, “Despite some turbulence, the market supply has been adequately addressed by current players, ensuring that there isn’t an upward price trajectory due to seat undersupply.”
Indeed, the industry’s present status quo is evident. During the low season, particularly in months like May and August this year, airlines offered attractive deals, signifying a return to business norms. For consumers, this translates to reasonably priced and sustainable domestic flight options. Price levels may never return to their 2019 standards due to changing dynamics, especially concerning fuel prices and the rand/dollar exchange rate. However, the current price structure is both fair and sustainable.
Airlines are now re-evaluating their market positions, with operating costs per seat becoming more significant. Full-service carriers, known for their added amenities like complimentary luggage, seat selections, loyalty programs, and meals, need to offer real value to justify their price points.
FlySafair remains as the only low-cost carrier in the local market and is committed to that operating model. “We’ve always aspired to provide a hassle-free, punctual, and affordable option,” said Gordon. “Our primary goal is to concentrate on an excellent basic service that consumers can enhance with optional extras according to their preferences.”
As the country emerges from winter to spring, consumers will undoubtedly turn their minds to plans for the much-awaited annual summer holiday season. With the market back at equilibrium the traditional airline booking advice remains sage: Book early to get the best fares.