Emirates recently signed an interline agreement with local private operator Cemair that opens up connections to six more destinations in South Africa.
Emirates resumed passenger flights to South Africa recently after it suspended them in January this year.According to the Middle Eastern airline’s regional manager, this provided an opportunity to reconsider its operations in South Africa.He foresees, among other things, an even further increase in demand for cargo.Middle Eastern airline Emirates – which suspended passenger operations to South Africa in January this year – took the opportunity to re-evaluate its approach to the country and found a window of opportunity to start rebuilding: cargo.
When passenger flights were suspended, it did not suspend cargo operations to and from South Africa.
Cargo played a critical part as the backbone of Emirates’ operations to South Africa during this period, said Afzal Parambil, the regional manager for South Africa.
What is more, the airline foresees an even further increase in demand for cargo.
“With the help of cargo operations, we are quite confident that we will rebuild our market in SA,” added Parambil.
Emirates is one of the largest foreign carriers operating in South Africa.
“We realised that, during the pandemic, it is not only about refunds for customers, but they also want alternative options to still be able to travel. Therefore, flexibility is important – allowing changes, including of destination, without additional charges. This builds trust with consumers.”
The airline resumed passenger flights to South Africa as from 6 August after obtaining approval from the United Arab Emirates government to do so.
“Permission was given once the number of Covid-19 cases in SA started dropping and the vaccination rollout increased,” said Parambil.
Emirates is currently operating to almost 90% of its pre-pandemic destinations – 120 of them. It is done via its hub in Dubai.
But travellers are wanted too
That said, Emirates is “extremely positive” about the outlook for South Africa’s travel market.
“As more countries start to open up their borders for travel to and from SA and adjust their protocol requirements, demand will increase. That is why we decided to increase our capacity to SA as from 1 September with double daily flights to Johannesburg – one of which will connect to Durban – and five flights a week to Cape Town,” said Parambil.
“Currently, the demand does not quite merit so many flights, but we want to make sure passengers can have easy onward connections. Dubai is not yet open for leisure passengers from SA. Before the pandemic it was one of the top destinations for SA travellers and we hope soon it can become so again. We want to, however, be ready for when higher demand returns.”
He foresees that especially when the UK removes South Africa from its so-called “red list”, demand will increase a lot.
Emirates works closely with the board of SA Tourism to encourage people on the airline’s network looking for new destinations to come and spend a holiday in South Africa.
“That way we build our inbound traffic to be more in balance with the higher outbound traffic,” said Parambil.
Emirates recently signed an interline agreement with local private operator Comair that opens up connections to six more destinations in South Africa.
The arrangement includes offering single ticket itineraries with onwards booking and baggage transfers from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Margate, Durban, Hoedspruit, Plettenberg Bay, George and Sishen.
Emirates also has interline and codeshare partnerships with South African Airways, Airlink and Flysafair.