Aircraft leasing and management company Safair has been granted approval by South Africa’s Air Service Licensing Council to launch their own domestic scheduled operation in the country under the brand FlySafair. This is in addition to the international and domestic unscheduled licence that it held for almost 50 years and permitting it to offer charter aviation services both domestically and internationally.
The airline was initially blocked from starting its operations after two competitors brought an urgent application to interdict the new low-cost airline from starting its operations based on it not meeting the 75% domestic ownership requirements. Since then FlySafair has restructured their shareholding, removing the shareholding which caused the problems while at the same time concluding one of the largest employee share ownership schemes in the aviation industry, effectively giving its South African employees a 25.14 per cent stake in the company.
The start-up carrier now plans offer up to ten daily flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town using two Boeing 737-400s from the final quarter of this year, with a formal start date, schedule information due to be confirmed in the coming months as reservations are opened. "Having now received our new schedule passenger licence, we are currently evaluating our options for the re-launch of FlySafair. Dates for the launch flight and ticket sales will be announced in due course," said Dave Andrew, chief executive officer, Safair.
Despite FlySafair not having been operational as a trading entity since October 2013, the airline retained the services of all the employees who were hired around ten months ago, by utilising them in Safair’s traditional business of providing backup services to local airlines and also in international charter operations.
“This demonstrates our commitment not only to job creation, but also sends a clear message that FlySafair is here for the long run. We are eager to provide South Africans with an alternate low-cost airline that is dedicated to offering competitive and sustainable fares between Johannesburg and Cape Town. The FlySafair team looks forward to our passengers putting our promise of affordability and exceptional service to the test,” added Andrew.
Safair is considered to be one of Africa's foremost leading aviation service providers with an established history of enabling airlines and operators to successfully navigate their business in an ever-changing business climate. The company has expertise and experience in providing aircraft leasing, maintenance, special operations, chartering and training services.
Since the early eighties, Safair has also been working with international aid partners such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Food Program and the United Nations, providing flights and carrying goods and supplies into the rest of Africa, and in fact the world, as part of their commitment to corporate social investment. However, it does have commercial aviation experience.
Few people realise Safair has been active in the South African aviation sector over the last few years, having served as a commercial support partner for most other local airlines. This involves Safair being contracted as an ACMI provider to operate the other airlines’ schedules whenever they have an aircraft out of service due to technical reasons or crew shortages.
In these instances, Safair provides their own unbranded aircraft and crew, and operates under the company name of the airline it is assisting. Due to this support service, Safair can already boast a history of flying a large number of the South African general public. With this experience the company’s management believes it is well placed to enter the low-cost airline market in South Africa.
The Johannesburg – Cape Town route is the busiest in the South African domestic market and accounted for 31.6 per cent of the total internal O&D passenger demand last year. Over three million passengers a year fly directly between the two cities on the multitude of domestic flights already offered by the likes of South African Airways, Comair, low-cost entities Kalula and Mango and up until 2012, 1Time Airline.
In our analysis below we look at scheduled capacity on the route over the past ten years using data from OAG Schedules Analyser. This shows that overall seat availability on the city pair is up slightly across the period after initially declining in 2005 and then peaking in 2008. However, capacity was down 8.1 per cent on the previous year. In 2013 a total of 5,394,090 seats were offered with South African Airways holding a 42.8 per cent share ahead of Comair (flying as British Airways and Kulula) with 36.3 per cent and Mango with 12.3 per cent.