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Searches for domestic flights in SA up 300% compared to pre-Covid – and also more expensive

  • There's been a surge in travel enquiries since South Africa was removed from the United Kingdom’s restrictive red list in October.
  • Searches for flights from South Africa to Europe and the United States have grown by more than 65% compared to 2019, with fares being more affordable too.
  • But the biggest surge in summer season searches is local, with interest in domestic flights up 294% compared to pre-pandemic times, according to Cheapflights’ data.
  • Local holidaymakers can expect to pay 12% more for tickets during this period, with an average return fare of R2,200.

South Africans are eager to travel locally this summer season, according to the latest data on flight searches which shows that current interest far exceeds levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world is reopening to international travel. More than 40% of the world’s population is considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19. And although some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, despite higher levels of herd immunity, daily new confirmed Covid-19 deaths recorded over the past month are at the lowest levels in 2021.

This easing of restrictions bodes well for travel-hungry South Africans and the country’s embattled tourism sector. A surge in travel queries, flights, and bookings was recorded in October, coinciding with the United Kingdom’s (UK) long-awaited decision to remove South Africa from its prohibitive red list.

Searches for flights from South Africa to Europe shot up by approximately 65% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Cheapflights’ data provided to Business Insider South Africa. Interest in flights to the UK increased by 77% and to the United States (US), which recently eased its restrictions on South African travellers, by 55%.

As more countries reopen, international airlines tentatively are reinstating routes which had been dormant throughout the pandemic. Increased flight frequency allows supply to meet the surging demand, and, because of this, prices of overseas flights are now around 26% cheaper compared to 2019.

This trend isn’t true for flights to all destinations though. Searches for fights from South Africa to India have almost doubled compared to 2019 but prices have also increased dramatically. It’s now 66% more expensive to travel to India, with the average return flight costing R16,400, according to Cheapflights.

Even greater interest comes from the domestic market, showing that South Africans are keen on local summer holidays, more so than in 2019. Searches for domestic flights are up by about 294% compared to pre-pandemic times, notes Cheapflights.

Travel to coastal cities is remains immensely popular, with searches for flights to Cape Town surging by 322% and to Durban by 258% compared to the same period in 2019. But South Africans looking to keep it local this summer season can also expect to pay more, with return tickets up 12% compared to 2019, with the average price at R2,200.

Searches for flights to neighbouring Zimbabwe showed the biggest increase compared to 2019, jumping by around 677%. These flights have also become more affordable, with the average return flight costing R3,800, down by around 28% compared to the pre-pandemic summer period.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

This article was first published by Business Insider on the 15 November 2021.

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