Airlink gets competition

2013-10-23 00:00

COMPETITION for Airlink in the form of SA Express offering flights from Pietermaritzburg airport to Johannesburg, has drawn mixed reaction.

The news yesterday that SA Express would be flying out of Pietermaritzburg came as a surprise to many, not least of whom was the airport’s owner, Msunduzi Municipality, which only yesterday learnt that another airline would be based at its airport.

David Gengan, manager: investment promotions for Msunduzi Municipality, said that SA Express had not approached them for authority to be based at Pietermaritzburg Airport.

“We were very surprised to hear that SA Express would be flying out of Pietermaritzburg,” said Gengan. He said that SA Express should have made a formal application with the municipality, as there are logistical issues that need to be put in place.

Gengan met with SA Express yesterday to “make interim arrangements”.

He said he does not foresee any problem with the airline eventually being accommodated at Pietermaritzburg Airport, however.

Pietermaritzburg Airport manager Winston Fynn said that the airport’s terminal configuration is almost complete, but they “are looking at how we could possibly assist [SA Express], as they weren’t part of the original plan”.

Tando Mbikwana, who is in charge of stakeholder relations and aircraft acquisitions for SA Express, said they would be sending a team of experts to assist the municipality in meeting the timeline for opening on November 1.

Brian van Wyk, general manager for commercial at SA Express, insisted that the airline would be ready by November 1. He confirmed that SA Express would be offering a morning and afternoon flight from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg from Mondays to Fridays.

Airlink said they were surprised at SA Express’s intentions. “Yes, this was a surprise that an airline bearing the same brand intellectual property has chosen to compete on a route that cannot sustain competition — it’s like having two MacDonald’s franchises operating on the same street corner,” said Karin Murray, spokesperson for Airlink.

“Fair competition is always welcome as it keeps competitors on their toes and promotes heightened service delivery and competitive air fares. However, unfair competition in markets that cannot sustain competition is not in anyone’s interests and it is inevitable that the services of one airline will be displaced by the services of another.”

Economist Clive Coetzee, general manager: infrastructure management and economic services at KZN Provincial Treasury, said that a third operator had not been part of the R40 million planned upgrade plans of Pietermaritzburg Airport, as the passenger numbers don’t appear to support this. He said that while the airport’s “passenger growth has been phenomenal, the fastest passenger growth of any airport in SA that we have stats on”, he is “sceptical” that another airline can operate from Pietermaritzburg at this stage.

“For [Airlink and SA Express] to co-exist at a reasonable price with current passenger numbers doesn’t look likely.”

Murray appeared to agree. “The route has not produced an overall profit for the last financial year to August 31, 2013, and competing for the same passengers and revenue will undoubtedly present added challenges.

“But that is the nature of free market competition. One only hopes that the rules of competition against a state-owned airline will be kept fair.”

“Pietermaritzburg has become an attractive option for passengers,” Coetzee said, “and the comparative cost to fly here has come down massively over the past four years.”

Coetzee said he would like to believe that the provincial government-funded upgrade of the airport has played a role in the growth of passenger numbers, but pointed out that Airlink’s role in bringing its bigger jets and other equipment to Pietermaritzburg cannot be under-estimated in contributing to growth.

Fares for current airlines in PMB

AT present, travellers can fly to Johannesburg from Pietermaritzburg with SA Airlink or Federal Airlines.

Federal Airlines flies three times a week from Pietermaritzburg (PZB) via Ulundi (ULD) to Johannesburg (JNB). Ticket prices are PZB-ULD: R980, ULD-JNB: R1 680.

Airlink offers four return services daily between JNB and PZB. It said that the average cost to the traveller including taxes is approximately R1 200 plus VAT and airport taxes. The lowest published discounted fare from PZB all inclusive is approximately R760 subject to availability and bookable in a specific class of travel. The full economy fare from PZB all inclusive is approximately R2 065.

SA Express said that it would be releasing information on its fares on Monday.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.