I'll say it again. R7240.
That's how much it will cost you to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town on SAA in June next year.
With my grubby paws on three tickets for Match 56, R16 - 1H v 2G on 29 June, I have Joburg family flying down to enjoy a game at Cape Town's striking new stadium. But browsing around for airfares the other day I discovered that it's not only the stadium for the beautiful game that is breathtaking.
SAA is often not the cheapest option, so I merrily clicked over to kulula.com. R4298. Close on half the price, but still three times what you'll pay for a flight outside of World Cup season. BA/Comair split the difference with a return fare of R5248. Ouch.
Now, obviously, issues of supply and demand are going to affect availability (and therefore fares) when the World Cup circus comes to town, but with all the warnings for the travel and hospitality industries not to fleece tourists and locals perhaps the airlines didn't get the memo?
Still ticket-less, and by now gob-smacked at how airlines seem to be cashing in on the 2010 influx, I decided to see what the carriers had to say.
"Given the increased demand expected, there will be some increase in ticket prices during this time," said Vimla Maistry, SAA spokesperson. "This will be driven by when people want to travel and the available capacity during that time."
'Some' increase? I call a five-fold increase a little more than 'some'!
Yes, yes, there's that supply and demand argument again. That line ? however convenient ? might work for the independent commercial airlines, but hang on just a second. This is the national carrier we're talking about.
Don't they have a responsibility ? given that the taxpayer has coughed up billions to keep them flying ? to ensure that the nation can fly affordably year-round, whether for leisure or business? Isn't that the point of having a national carrier; to protect the country's aviation interests? If you want to be a commercial entity and chase profits then you shouldn't be allowed to come crying for a government bailout when the oil price spikes or your CEO stuffs up, no?
You'll notice I haven't mentioned 1time or Mango yet, as these two carriers will only announce their World Cup schedule (and fares) after the World Cup draw on December 4.
"To date, (we) haven't loaded our flights or prices, so we haven't taken any flack about high pricing," 1time Commercial Director Desmond O'Connor told me. "We are aware of some legacy carriers hiking the prices to ridiculous levels, but our view is that the market will ultimately determine how high prices can go. It will be a normal case of supply and demand."
Spokesperson for Mango, Hein Kaiser, also says that they will only release their fares after the draw, but is adamant that they won't be fleecing travellers: "Most businesses in South Africa will view the World Cup as a commercial opportunity. While we recognize this, Mango does not intend hiking its prices to the levels that some of our competitors are charging ? almost R10 000 for a return JNB-CPT. Mango's fares will remain affordable."
Now, it could be argued that if you choose to travel on holiday in June you've simply got to accept it'll cost you more, but what about business travellers and that economy-thingy that needs to keep ticking over?
Are airlines ripping us off, or must we simply accept higher prices? Tell us what you think by posting a comment below...