This week airlines begin to reintroduce domestic flights in South Africa and, while agents report that carriers have come to the party with pricing similar to pre-COVID19 levels, they also say travellers are hesitant to fly.

“We are not yet in a position to get a good gauge on pricing just yet, but we would describe the initial fares released into the market as mostly similar or slightly higher than usual. We believe that prices will stay low initially, in order to stimulate the market, but as things pick up we expect airfares to increase considerably within a landscape of limited competition and subdued demand,” said Andrew Stark, md of FCTG MEA.

Travel director of Marmalade Toast Bespoke Travel, David van den Heever-Liebenberg, agreed, saying he too had not noticed much change in pricing. “I quoted on business-class tickets for December and found airfares were about the same price as before. Clients are still uncertain about travelling and are only looking at travelling during December or later and no new bookings have come in yet.”

Marco Tomasicchio, director of XL International Travels, said the few domestic quotes he had done this week had come out a little more expensive than normal but that clients had needed a lot of clarity and reassurance about the new regulations in order for him to convert the sale.

Ceo of Tourvest Travel Services, Morné du Preez, told Travel News that domestic airfares had been reinstated at similar levels, as airlines wanted to fill their aircraft.

FlySafair is running reopening specials this month. Head of sales and distribution, Kirby Gordon, said the airline expected to keep prices lower for a while. He said as long as basic costs (such as fuel and salaries) were being met it was better for airlines to operate as many aircraft as possible, so that they could ensure that they were all contributing to their leases.

“As soon as we get to a break-even on domestic routes our aim is to engage more aircraft, which are currently standing around and costing money. These constant increases in supply should keep prices very moderate,” said Kirby.

“Right now the fares are fair. Not the low-cost numbers people looked at before but in the mid-band that BA and SAA would have been in before,” said ceo of CemAir, Miles van der Molen. Miles predicts that there will be a short-term dip in fares in the next few weeks, as too much capacity returns to the market, with limited routes to deploy it on. He expects pricing to eventually stabilise at a little higher than pre-COVID rates, as the industry tries to recover from the hit and adjusts to the reality of lower volumes.

XL Travel ITC, Bela Lucia Gomez, told Travel News that she had surveyed her corporate clients last week to find out if they would be booking flights. She said the overwhelming response was that companies had sustained such losses during lockdown that they had no option but to cut down on travel expenditure, except for essential trips such as engineering site visits. Bela also reported that many annual business trips would also not take place this year due to the cancellation of conferences, trade shows and events. Older clients were also expressing concerns about their health.

Geologist Elizabeth van Tubbergh told Travel News that the company she worked for would not resume business travel at level 3, as it did not wish to put staff at risk.

“While demand is slowly beginning to pick up, many clients are still hesitant to travel,” said Morné. “To reassure them about the safety of travelling, which I believe is no more risky than shopping for groceries due to the strict protocols our industry is implementing, I will be flying out on FlySafair’s first flight this month and will be reviewing the entire business travel process for our clients at each touchpoint – check-in, in flight, car rental and hotels. We want our clients to know that we would not expect them to resume travelling unless we ourselves are entirely comfortable with the safety precautions our industry has taken.”