Comparing South Africa’s low cost airlines

Skywise, a new low-cost airline, claims to offer the cheapest flights to the public. Moneybags journalist Jessica Wood compares the cost of using Skywise to airfare costs from SAA, Mango, Kulula and FlySafair to see who really offers the better deal.

For the purpose of this analysis, flights over the Easter weekend were analysed, as this is a popular time for travel.

Departure – Cape Town to Johannesburg (O.R. Thambo), Friday 3 April: **

departure flights

*Skywise only has two flights to Johannesburg per day. Includes airport taxes and other fees.

Return – Johannesburg (O.R. Thambo) to Cape Town, Monday 6 April: **

return flights
*Skywise only has two flights to Cape Town per day. Includes airport taxes and other fees.

Who is cheaper?

When conducting the analysis, flights for the same, or similar time of day were analysed in order to see how the prices differ for similar times of day for each airline. Unfortunately, not all the airlines have flights scheduled for the same time of day.

The mid-morning flight for departure was chosen for each airline, and the mid-afternoon flight was chosen for the return trip, as these seem to be the most popular flight times. However, the cheapest flights offered by each airline for that day and the time of the flights are also listed.

For departure flights from Cape Town to Johannesburg over the Easter weekend, leaving on Friday 3 April, Skywise offers customers the cheapest flight both for the morning flight that was analysed, and the overall cheapest flight of the day. For the mid-morning flight, Skywise was the only airline whose airfare was below R1 000.

For the return flight on Monday 6 April, for the afternoon flight, Skywise again offered the cheapest airfare (R1 064.20), however, FlySafair was not far behind with their flight costing only R34 more (R1 098.61). When looking for the cheapest return flight for that day, Kulula offers the best deal at R944.92, which was R119.28 cheaper than Skywise.

From the analysis, it is clear that for most airlines the cheapest flights are early in the morning or late in the evening.

However, some of the airlines only offer a limited number of flights per day. For example Skywise, who only offers two flights to Johannesburg and two flights to Cape Town per day and the only route it currently offers customers is between Johannesburg and Cape Town. For more information on Skywise, click here.

It is a good idea to select a time and date that you would like to fly and then shop around before booking the first flight that you come across. You may be surprised, with who offers the best price for that day.

However, it is important to note that the price of airfares can change on a daily basis, so just because you saw a flight for R500 today, doesn’t mean that the same flight will cost R500 tomorrow, it could be cheaper or it could be more expensive.

Additional costs

When purchasing your ticket, you must ensure that you know exactly what is covered in the cost of the ticket. This includes airport tax and luggage. Many airlines will include these fees in the cost of the ticket, however, it is important to read the fine print and make sure that you are not responsible for additional fees that are not included.

For example, at FlySafair, luggage costs are not included in your ticket price. You have to pay an additional fee for any luggage you wish to take with.

If you add a bag to your flight while booking online, it costs an additional R150, but if you phone the call centre to add luggage, it will cost R250. Then to add an extra bag will cost you a further R250.

Bags are limited to a weight of 20kg, anything that weighs more than this will incur and additional heavy bag charge. FlySafair’s website states: “Bags weighing in excess of 32kg’s per bag will be transported as cargo at the passenger’s expense and may not be transported on the same flight as the passenger. All arrangements to transport the bag as cargo will have to be made by the passenger.”

Meanwhile, Skywise makes a point of informing customers on their homepage that there are no hidden costs in their ticket prices. This means that baggage costs and airport tax are included in the cost of your airfare.

The other airlines, Mango, Kulula and SAA also include one bag in the cost of your ticket (with a maximum weight of 20kg) with a heavy bag charge if your bag exceeds this limit. If your bag exceeds 32kg, most of the airlines will not allow you to check it in. In addition to your luggage, you are also allowed to have hand luggage not exceeding 7kg.

Tips for saving money on flights

  • Book your flight early to get a cheaper rate. The cost of a flight increases the closer to the departure date you book it.
  • Shop around for the best deal. An airline may claim to offer the best and most competitive price, but it is always best to shop around before you make your final booking. You might be surprised by what you find. Some airlines, such as Mango, also offer deals, so keep your eyes and ears open for when they advertise specials, and book your flights then.
  • To cut down on additional costs, don’t order food or drink on the flight, where it can be very expensive unless of course it’s included in your ticket price. Rather wait until you have landed.
  • Keep your luggage weight to within the limits prescribed by the airline. All airlines charge passengers an excess baggage weight fee if luggage exceeds the airlines maximum weight allowance. Weigh your bag before you leave home to make sure that it does not exceed the limit.
  • If you are going to need transport when you reach your destination, many of the airlines also offer services where you can hire a car through them and you may get discounts for using this service for your loyalty.

**All prices accurate as of 4 March 2015, prices are subject to change. Prices gathered from the various airline’s websites.