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Low-cost airlines put on their gloves, ready to fight

Comair posts good results despite high oil price.

Comair announced a 95% increase in attributable earnings to R52,2m for the half-year ended December 31 2006.

This is despite a high fuel prices that added R60m to operating costs. Headline earnings per share were up 96% to 13c compared to 6cin the same period the previous year.

Turnover was up 16% to R1,1bn due to growth in passenger volumes and occupancy levels.

The replacement of some of the fleet also improved operating efficiencies. Comair plans to upgrade three more aircrafts this year.  

Joint CEO Erik Venter said that there may be some relief on the fuel price for the second half of the year, however these gains may be negated by downward pressure on ticket prices due to the launch of Mango, which he says has increased capacity in an already overtraded domestic market.

“We will continue to debate with, and challenge government on the subject of the need for loss-making state owned airline’s in the domestic market, however know that our key to overcoming the industry challenges remains our drive to improve operating efficiencies through our fleet replacement programme, increasing our potential for revenue growth and naturally, our focus on consistently delivering the highest levels of service to our customers,” he said.

On Sunday, Mango released a statement saying that after three months of shaking up the aviation industry, the airline celebrates a winning hand of achievements.

The company said that it had sold in excess of 500 000 tickets, and more than half this number of passenger had already flown on the airline.

Mango says that it was an over achiever during its first few months of operation beating records that its competitors had set.

“Mango took only six days to reach 10 000 guests travelled, this measured against a competitor’s record 20 days to achieve the same. On its 35 th day of flight, Mango welcomed the 100 000th guest on board, compared to a competitor’s achievements of 122 days,” the airline said.

Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said that the airline is exploring growth opportunities both in terms of routes and fleet.  

He said that the airline’s load factors had averaged above 75%.

The third no frills airline, 1time said that it would be increasing its capacity as well.

The airline said that it would be adding new routes and increasing flights on its current flight schedule.

The airline said that it would be adding a route between Cape Town and Durban and weekend flights between Johannesburg and George.

In addition to the new routes 1time will be increasing frequency by adding a third weekly flight on a Thursday between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. The Johannesburg – Durban route will also see an increase of up to seven flights a day and Johannesburg – Cape Town will see an increase of up to eight flights a day.

“The new service between Durban and Cape Town is the third and final link in the golden triangle and we believe there’s great potential to grow the market on this route. The new service between Johannesburg and George has been introduced due to popular demand and also due to the huge increase in fares by our competitors in the last six months. We also look forward to increasing the George service on a seasonal basis where there is sufficient demand,” said Rodney James, marketing director of 1time airline.    

The new routes and additional frequencies will grow 1time’s available seats to 1,5M for the year and flights will increase to 222 a week.

1time will be operating a fleet of five 157 seater MD82/3 and two 110 seater DC9-32 aircrafts. A sixth MD80 has been ordered for delivery in May 2007.

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An open letter to Mango Airlines Customer Service

Mr. Nico Bezuidenhout


Mango Airlines April 9, 2007

Dear Mr. Bezuidenhout,

I write to share what I believe is an important perception regarding Mango Airlines policy and service.

As a member of a party of five, I was booked on JE flight 139 from Johannesburg to Cape Town on March 31st. We left plenty of time to get to the airport that morning. Unfortunately, the N1 South was shut down (there was a bad accident, despite the early hour and virtually empty freeway) trapping us behind the emergency vehicles that morning. As a result, we arrived at the Mango check-in gate one half hour prior to scheduled departure, just in time to hear the check-in agent close the flight. Within 5 minutes a group of 15 passengers had gathered caught by the same circumstance.

The message was simple: We have closed the flight. There are certain documents that need to be processed. There is nothing we can do. You will not receive a refund. Your seats will go empty. We have no other seats available on any other flights today.

First off, I want to say I am familiar with the policy attached to on-line purchases with Mango that clearly indicate that if, as a customer, I arrive less than 30 minutes before a scheduled take-off I lose out entirely.

That is not why I write. I write because I what I was told was patently untrue and because I think your procedures do not make business sense. First the two untruths:

1. There are certain documents that need to be processed. Last month, I arrived to check-in my god-daughter on a flight with S.A. Express, an affiliate of Mango’s parent company and the desk and gate agents worked quickly together to put her on a plane. Within about three minutes they graciously and sensibly overcame the following obstacles a) she had forgotten her I.D. at home and b) she had completely confused her take off and arrival times such that she had missed her flight by over an hour and c) the flight they managed to put her on left in less than 10 minutes. Now THAT is what I call service. Yes, I paid a penalty to help make that happen, but it was the people involved that made it happen, not me. And this was for a single customer, not a group of 15 held up by the police on the N1 arriving with still 25 minutes to go. Clearly documents in need of process, if they existed, did not stop the S.A. Express employees from serving a customer in need.

2. ‘There is nothing we can do.’ This was proven wrong for the 15 customers who missed JE 139 by the simple fact that after pleading, patience and excellent fact finding / inquiry about subsequent flights room was found for all 30 of us on the very next flight. As it turns out this was a simple function of a) subtracting the known bookings at the time from the capacity of the plane and b) making a cell call to someone with the authority to let those seats be filled by us and c) the payment of a late booking fee. Something could be done, and eventually was done, but NOT initiated by Mango. If it had not been for the perseverance and calm patience of a single customer, all 15 of us would have booked on other airlines.

The final reason I write is because I believe your business plan is worthy of a review. I am an educator of 20 years in international schools. If there is something wrong with the service I provide, I want to know about it quickly and honestly. The present plan as carried out by Mango Airlines, creates significant customer dissatisfaction and drives people to the competition. Of the 15 customers in line, two were in tears, one did not have the time to plead and wait and purchased a ticket on a competing airline and one was so angry that the police needed to be called. I do not know how many of the group moved Mango from the top of their list of preferred airlines to the bottom. I do not know how many added a negative story about Mango to the holiday stories they tell colleagues and friends. With four or five low-cost airlines in this market I believe the ones that will rise fastest will be the ones that embrace most clearly an ethic of service and that everything that can be done for the customer will be done for the customer. In the present airline business climate, the airline that can do miracles is the one that people will flock to.


C. Cabell Tennis


The American International School of Johannesburg

Private Bag X-4

Bryanston 2021

Republic of South Africa

End of comments.





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