- Lufthansa is set to increase its capacity in South Africa again.
- For the group's general manager for southern and east Africa, it is a sign of its optimism.
- The group is also setting its sights on other destinations in the region.
At the end of March, the Lufthansa Group plans to re-introduce its direct services to Cape Town.
It was put on hold at the beginning of February when Covid-19 lockdowns in SA and Germany made it not feasible.
The reinstated Lufthansa flight between Cape Town and Frankfurt will operate three times per week. Additionally, Lufthansa will be increasing its capacity between Johannesburg and Frankfurt by offering five weekly flights as from April 2021. Currently it is three times a week.
The group's existing Swiss flights connecting Zurich and Johannesburg will continue to operate three times per week.
"There is a sense of optimism for the year 2021. The vaccine rollout brings hope. By increasing our capacity in southern and east Africa, we will send out a strong message of hope and optimism. We believe in the second half of 2021 the situation will improve significantly," said Dr André Schulz, Lufthansa's general manager for southern and east Africa.
"We have seen elsewhere in the world that, whenever lockdowns are lifted, demand comes back strongly. We are seeing the level of new infections in SA being low and now we just need our home markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to revise the risk rating for SA and Namibia and East Africa again."
Schulz believes demand is there and the minute people can travel, they will.
"The purpose of aviation is to connect people, cultures and economies in a sustainable way. That is what we want to do and the increase of our capacity to southern and east Africa shows this," he adds.
This is not to say times do not remain challenging, but for him, the Lufthansa Group's planned capacity increases to SA signals its optimism.
"Given the uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic and related regulations implemented by governments all over the world, the outlook for the aviation industry almost changes on a daily basis. The problem for international airlines right now is that we continuously have to be in a reacting, improvisational mode, while we prefer to be able to be proactive regarding our strategies, budgets and targets," said Schulz.
"At the beginning of October 2020, when SA reopened its international borders, we had a nice ramp up in passenger demand from November to mid-December. In fact over that period we had one of the highest booking demands globally as being for SA as destination. It was likely due to residents in our home markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland being tired of their winter mode."
Then, with the virus mutation first detected in SA, the picture changed from one day to the next. The demand reduced to such an extent that Lufthansa Group decided at the time to reduce its number of flights to SA.
Cargo is currently playing an important role in making up for the reduced passenger demand. Due to the reduced passenger demand leading to fewer flights, the cargo capacity usually available on passenger planes has been drastically reduced. This has created a stronger demand for cargo space. This in turn helps to make flights viable.
"We see demand on the tourism side and there are also some positive signals on the corporate side. We think the leisure market will play a very important role in sub-Sahara Africa. We are excited about our Eurowings brand launching more flights on the continent as from June this year. It is already flying to Windhoek in Namibia where we will increase our flights to five per week in April. It is currently the only carrier directly connecting Namibia and Europe," says Schulz.
From June, Eurowings Discover will also fly to Mauritius, a new service will be launched to Mombasa and Zanzibar.
"So, we had a strong leisure focus on southern Africa, and will now have on east Africa as well," said Schulz.
"The Eurowings model is more focused on leisure and on group leisure. The Eurowings Discover brand is more aimed at travellers and tourists on annual holidays. It offers competitive prices and also has a small business class and premium economy offering. It is the ideal time to roll out our Eurowings Discover offering in the region."
Schulz said Lufthansa believes that internationally recognised, digital vaccination and test certificates must replace travel bans and quarantine measures "so that people can once again visit family and friends, meet business partners or learn about other countries and cultures".
"Travel and tourism is experiencing a rapid evolution on all fronts. At the start of the pandemic, the industry had to reinvent itself, find innovative solutions and weather the storm," he said.
"This unique crisis is accelerating the transformation process in our company. 2021 will be a year of modernisation and re-dimensioning for us, with a clear focus on our purpose to connect people, cultures and economies in a sustainable way."