India arrivals on the up, yet SAA lags on re-instating direct Mumbai connectivity

2019-06-28 11:55 - Selene Brophy
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SAA planes lined at at an airport

State-owned airline SAA carried 6.9 million passengers in the year ending March 2016.

Indian arrivals to South Africa is growing.

With key markets like the UK  slowing by an estimated 3%, Indian travellers to SA grew by an estimated 4% when comparing the peak seasons of January to March for 2018 (6 769 arrival )  and 2019 (7 043 arrivals).

As South Africa weights its international arrivals, now slipping below the margins to achieve year on year targets, the focus of state capture around SAA’s cancellation of the direct Mumbai to Joburg route only serves to aggravate.

And despite a call from President Cyril Ramaphosa to look at reinstating the controversial route, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali has confirmed “there are no developments at this stage”.

It's no secret that affluent and business travellers prefer direct connectivity.

READ:Ramaphosa: We want direct SAA flight route to India back

Adding insult to the corruption inquiry is that Jet Airways, the Indian national carrier for which SAA allegedly bowed out, suspended all flights on 17 April 2019. It was the second-largest airline in India after IndiGo, with a 17.8% passenger market share.

South African Airways’ turn-a-round strategy to get the ailing airline to a point of financial stability has been on going, with some controversial decisions over the years. At the centre of it has been "route rationalisation".

Speaking to Traveller24 SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says "route rationalisation" remains core part of the ailing airline’s turn-around strategy.

“The team responsible for network planning and optimization is currently busy with its work.

Tlali says it was too early to confirm is the “work undertaken so far supports the reinstatement of the Johannesburg-Mumbai service”.

“Route launch is an investment decision which we take seriously. This means, the shareholder must be advised on the strength of a sound business case and a strong commercial logic. 

READ: Local tourism 'more accessible' but why are fewer international tourists coming to SA?

“A business case in accordance with section 54 of the PFMA will only be considered if there is a recommendation to reinstate the Mumbai service.  We will make appropriate recommendations to the shareholder and present options for decision once we have finalized our work.”

Currently those wanting to travel between the two countries need to make a multiple-stop journey, with ticket pricing varying at about R6 701 (with Air Seychelles via Mahe) and R33 345 (With SAA and Air Seychelles via Mahe) – according to an online flight price search (Prices were correct for a search done for mid-July, at the time of publishing).

The numbers speak for themselves. They do not serve local passengers well, nor does it encourage them to use our national carrier. And with a cheaper option via another carrier - does it rationalise the multi-stop route for SAA.

And with “no firm decision in place” at the moment, perhaps this is not being taken seriously enough.

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