With domestic flights down by a third, South Africans have experienced unprecedented price hikes in airline tickets in the last few months. Now the tide is turning as established carriers' clamour for more routes. Keep reading to see if relief is on the horizon for SA travellers.


After two years of restrictions, air travellers across the globe are eager to explore both domestic and international destinations, and executive travellers are keen to get back to business.

This high demand for tickets has caught carriers off guard as they struggle to recover from the implications of this extended period of inactivity.

Booking requests have quickly resurged to over 80% of pre-pandemic levels, while airlines have only managed to reinstitute 65% of their flights. Add to that the demise of local carriers Kulula, Mango, SA Express, and Comair, as well as SA Airlines slow return to the market, and you’ve got a shortage of around 30% of seats in 2022.
This has resulted in the ideal disparity between supply and demand that drives prices sky-high.

The Ukraine war is also placing pressure on fuel supply, pushing jet fuel prices way above normal levels.

The changing face of SA air travel

SA Airlines fortunate enough to avoid financial ruin during the pandemic or emerge from business rescue intact are slowly attempting to rectify this issue. These noble ambitions are hampered by lengthy application processes and the cost of buying new jets to service these routes.

Despite these challenges, the Air Services Licencing Council has recently approved a number of flights which should bring some relief to the domestic travel market. As a result, domestic carriers are rapidly expanding their fleets.

FlySafair is adding six additional Boeing 737-800 aircraft by the end of April, SAA is boosting its fleet with three Airbus A320 planes by the end of the year, and Airlink has already introduced an extra three Embraer E195 aircraft to its fleet.

Additionally, Airlink has recently acquired 40% of Fly Namibia, CemAir has increased its fleet size by 20% this year, and Lift has just commenced with a new Durban route. FlySafair has ASLC approval for 11 new routes across southern Africa.

These include:


- Cape Town to Windhoek

- Nairobi

- Seychelles

- Gaborone

- Luanda

- Livingstone

- Lusaka

- Vic Falls

- Johannesburg to Bulawayo




The great benefit of this growth in the industry has been a massive employment drive which has effectively helped to save many of those who ended up unemployed after the closure of other airlines.



FlySafair alone has increased its staff complement by over 18% this year.

What’s ahead for airline ticket prices

While more seats mean lower prices, it remains to be seen whether airlines are overestimating demand as they add to their offering and increase their fleets. While this will certainly help bring prices down, it could plunge more airlines back into financial trouble.

Despite the risks, FlySafair’s chief marketing officer, Kirby Gordon, believes domestic carriers have a good idea of how far to go in their expansion. He believes the 1.6 million target for airline seats is a realistic and achievable goal.

Gordon believes flight prices will approach more familiar levels by the end of January 2023 due to seasonal fluctuations in demand as well as more available seats. Jet fuel prices are starting to cool after a 220% hike at the beginning of the year, too.

For now, those planning business and leisure travel on SA Airlines should continue to book early and compare prices to ensure they’re flying in the most affordable way possible.




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