SAA, Cape Town Tourism disagree over scrapped route

Posted: June 8, 2012 in travel & tourism

Following Tuesday’s announcement by the South African Airways (SAA) of its plans to scrap its 20-year direct route between Cape Town and London from August 16 directing passengers instead to catch a flight from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, authorities at the Cape Town Tourism have flayed the decision by the national carrier.

Chief Executive Officer of Cape Town Tourism, Ms Mariëtte Du Toit-Helmbold, described the move as disappointing, further expressing the fears that it could affect tourism arrivals from the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe negatively.

“This is disappointing news for Cape Town’s tourism industry and we fear it could affect tourism arrivals from the UK and the rest of Europe negatively… Whilst SAA’s growth strategy’s emphasis on expansion of routes into Africa and new markets like South America and Australasia is encouraging, the issue of direct air access to Cape Town is again highlighted.

“Airlines must make economic sense. When a flight is cancelled this is the reason. Decreased business travel, as a result of troubled economies, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveller is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, which points to a need to work hard on forging stronger business ties in addition to the leisure market,” said Du Toit-Helmbold.

SAA had cited declining passenger numbers to the United Kingdom and increasing airport taxes in that country as some of the reasons for ending the route, just as it said it planned to re-deploy some of it planes to its growing Accra, Mumbai and Perth routes and add Abidjan to the network.

Also reacting, Nils Flaatten, CEO of Wesgro, the official marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the province, said the Cape Town-London route still held strong economic value.

“Our research has indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds strong economic value for the Western Cape and neighbouring Eastern Cape. International airlines identified this and are increasing their capacity during peak season. Many business and leisure travellers from the United States are using London as a connecting flight into Cape Town and we are at risk of losing these visitors, as the travelling time has been extended even further. A national debate on airlift strategy is urgently required to discuss direct flights into Cape Town International Airport as well as the other regional airports. Poor economic conditions in the global north and escalating fuel prices were making it difficult for many international airlines to remain competitive. These market conditions would also have an impact on the pricing of domestic flights and the ability to move tourists throughout South Africa.”

SAA has confirmed that they will continue to use Cape Town as a draw card in their marketing promotions and campaigns, and Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro will continue to seek joint marketing opportunities with SAA in the markets they operate in to complement demand driving marketing strategy and campaigns.

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