FlySafair Changes Course To Embrace Passengers

“In 2013 we made the decision to start the airline, as we knew the charter business was coming to an end with the lifetime of the Hercs expiring, we knew that the essence of what our Safair brand did was ending, too”, recalls Elmar Conradie.

The idea was to launch a true low-cost operator in a very hotly contested domestic aviation market that sometimes had half a dozen or more brands competing simultaneously, especially on trunk routes like Johannesburg to Cape Town.

FlySafair got off the ground from its original base in Cape Town on October 14, 2014, with Irish-based ASL Holding owning 25 per cent. At the time the market was dominated by four airline brands: SAA and its low-cost affiliate Mango plus Comair/British Airways plus its cheaper offspring Kulula. FlySafair, as a new brand to the travelling public, while building on its long expertise, had to defend its niche.

Very recently the South African domestic market has changed dramatically, propelling FlySafair to the unlikely position of now being the market leader in terms of seats. National carrier SAA ceased operations in May 2020 and came back only in a very limited size in September 2021.

Mango stopped flying in July 2021, and a return is uncertain. Then in June 2022, Comair/British Airways and Kulula ceased to fly simultaneously. This resulted in a market situation that is radically different from only mid-2022: By April, FlySafair will be operating a new company record of 32 Boeing 737s (27 of them 737-800s, five 737-400s) and has by far the most seats in the market.

In early March 2023, FlySafair has almost 49 per cent of all available seats putting it ahead, whereas Airlink with smaller aircraft but more destinations claims 46 per cent of flights ranking first in this category.

To be able to offer that kind of capacity increase, the fleet had to be expanded almost overnight.  “We had our biggest growth pains in early 2022, because during Covid we didn’t recruit people, we stayed the same, but actually lost a lot of people. Then we suddenly had to fly all the aircraft and realized we were short on resources,” says Conradie.

“We were way understaffed for the amount of growth and flight operations we had, only then we actually started to recruit ahead of the new aeroplanes coming in.”

While not providing more specific financial data, it’s a business making money. “We have always been profitable since the second year of our operation with the exception of 2020, and 2014 was a breakeven year though we only flew for three months,” explains the CEO.

“In 2022 the Safair charter operation closed down. It was always one company on one AOC, just with two brands.” FlySafair is unique in the airline business, as its fairly streamlined low-cost operation has evolved from a heritage second-to-none, involving great passion and airmanship.

Soon, it will spread its wings beyond its home country’s borders. Recently, FlySafair got awarded with about a dozen route rights to regional African destinations by the South African authorities. Probably by September 2023, the airline will commence flying daily from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Windhoek/Namibia and Harare/Zimbabwe as well as Zanzibar island, belonging to Tanzania. “Five years from now, we’ll have a strong presence in the southern African market with probably 40 aircraft or more,” predicts the CEO.

The post

Visiting South Africa’s now biggest airline in terms of seats offered and one of Africa’s newly leading airlines overall, low-cost carrier FlySafair in Johannesburg, starts with a surprise.

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Next to the company’s hangars, a cargo aircraft with four mighty propellers on its wings performs an engine test with power on “idle” at a remote corner of OR Tambo International Airport. It’s the last of its kind, a rare breed of the few civilian read more ⇒

Source:: AirlineRatings.Com

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