SA Express takes off on new Mthatha route with slashed fares

Siza Mzimela, acting CEO of SA Express. Picture: James Oatway
Siza Mzimela, acting CEO of SA Express. Picture: James Oatway

South African Express is hoping to undercut its sole competitor on its newly-launched Johannesburg to Mthatha route.

According to interim chief executive Siza Mzimela, the ailing airline would be competing with SA Airlink when it comes to flying to the Eastern Cape town from Johannesburg and would be offering fares between 35% and 55% lower that its competitor.

Speaking to City Press during the airline’s inaugural flight to Mthatha earlier this week, Mzimela said the airline would be flying to the town daily and later next month would increase the frequency to twice a day.

The airline launched new routes earlier this month, including the Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg to Durban routes, while next month there are plans to fly to Cape Town from Johannesburg too.

“The intention of that Cape Town base is to do what we have done with the Johannesburg base, which is to operate domestic flights and to expand the regional space out of Cape Town,” she said.

“The fact that we can offer slightly lower fares can only be an advantage. Also this route also feeds into our mandate of connecting secondary markets,” Mzimela said about one of the key lessons she learnt running her own carrier.

She said the airline had its own Johannesburg to Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) route, which was its most profitable, and forecast the Mthatha one to also be among the busier routes.

“We also think [it] is going to be an extremely good route,” she said.

The former founder and chief executive of Fly Blue Crane airline, which ceased operations in February 2017, Mzimela said that the key lesson she learnt during her stint as head of that company was that anti-competitive conduct should be reported as soon as it was noticed.

“When somebody responds by dropping prices in order to get you out of the market, it’s about getting that reported a lot sooner,” she said.

During the launch in Mthatha, the local district mayor of OR Tambo district Nomakhosazana Meth said the local authorities would support the airline.

She pointed out that the road to East London was one of the most dangerous in the area and that another airline flying from the local airport would result in less people having to travel to East London to board flights that would take them out of the province.

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