The minister of tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, has announced a partnership with middle eastern airline Emirates as domestic flight capacity remains constrained.

At a media briefing on Thursday (1 September), Sisulu said that during a visit to Dubai, bilateral agreements were made with the middle-eastern airline to give it access to South Africa’s domestic routes while Emirates promotes South Africa abroad.

Sisulu said that government is in a code-sharing agreement with the airline and has since signed a memorandum of understanding to grow the tourism market in South Africa.

The chief executive officer of Emirates, Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Makhtoum said that the airline’s long-term plan is to grow the tourism business and position the United Arab Emirates as a destination – rather than a hub dependent on passenger transit.

Sisulu said her department views the collaboration as critical in supporting our turnaround strategy and rebuilding trust in travel to the ‘Global South.’

She added that it expects this partnership to boost visitor arrivals and promote tourism and inbound traffic to South Africa from key markets across the Emirates network.

According to Emirates, customers can now book additional flight routes, including eight destinations from Johannesburg, five destinations from Cape Town and one from Durban.

Bloemfontein, Hoedspruit, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, George and East Long – among others – are some examples of new route options.

Domestic failings

The department of tourism said that while there had been a global increase in seat capacity, the capacity in South Africa still only makes up roughly 61% of pre-pandemic levels.

The cost of getting a seat has sky-rocketed while seat availability has also become constrained. For example, Airlink, the current largest domestic airline in South Africa, has seen its fares hike up by 7%, said Sisulu.

This follows a major blow to the airline industry when British Airways and Kulula operator Comair went into business rescue and subsequently liquidated – leaving South Africa with 40% less seat capacity.

In the earlier part of August, Sisulu met with the Airlines Association of  Southern Africa (AASA) following reports relating to shortages of airline seats and the rising cost of flight tickets.

She said that the failings of domestic airlines affect the tourism industry directly – and the tourism industry is eager to help.

“AASA shared with us that the airline industry is cash intensive, where a lot of investment is made up front. Given that the most important investment airlines have made towards people and skills, the airlines were determined to do whatever is possible to defend the gains they’ve made in people, which investment has ensured that South Africa is ranked among the safest in global aviation,” said the department.

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