Kulula Adds East London to Domestic Network

South African low-cost carrier Kulula is to introduce a new domestic link between OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and East London.  The carrier will offer an up to twice daily (only one rotation on a Saturday) from March 1, 2013 using a Boeing 737-800.  Like Mango’s recent growth to Port Elizabeth it has been driven by the recent collapse of 1Time.

The budget operator will compete directly with national carrier South African Airways (SAA) in this market.  SAA has been the dominant operator on this route for a long period of time and up until the early 2000s held a monopoly.  However, the proliferation of start-up carriers in the South African domestic market has meant it has faced increasing competition in East London, initially from Nationwide Airlines in 2002.

For Kulula.com, a subsidiary of Comair, this will represent the return to a market it has previously served.  The carrier operated flights between Johannesburg and East London from May 2005 until March 2006 providing up to four flights per week but was unable to compete effectively with SAA at this time.  The flag carrier currently offers up to six rotations a day flown with a mix of mainline and regional aircraft.

“We have introduced this route to meet the demand for flights in and out of East London, and to support the economic growth of the Eastern Cape.  We are thrilled to be able to address this need for our Kulula fans, by making it easier and more affordable to fly to and from East London,” said Nadine Damen, Marketing Manager, Kulula.

An estimated 381,000 O&D passengers flew between Johannesburg and East London in 2011.  According to the data, 1Time, which entered this market in January 2007, held a 22 per cent share of the O&D traffic during the period.