Budget-conscious travellers could be in for a treat if low-cost carrier, WOW Air, which is eyeing potential new direct, long-haul routes, starts operations to South Africa. The Icelandic, no-frills airline, recently announced that it would launch flights as soon as 2018 to destinations in Africa. There’s a high possibility its base for these flights would be London.
WOW plans to launch its second long-haul base next year but the airline’s Founder and CEO, Skúli Mogensen, has yet to announce the location. He says London is in the running. He adds that new high-tech and fuel-efficient aircraft are a major contributor to the airline’s potential route expansion. “There is a great opportunity with the arrival of new aircraft – the A320neo, the A321neoLR, and the A330neo. The timing is perfect for us to expand,” says Mogensen. “The real winner will be the consumer. Fares will fall, there will be better aircraft with more innovative technology.”
June Crawford, CEO of Board of Airline Representatives South Africa, says while Africa is yet to see a low-cost carrier coming to the continent, she believes fastjet is an example of a carrier that could ultimately get long haul right. “They have the right aircraft and are economical.” She believes there would be demand for a reliable and safe low-cost carrier into Africa. “If the fares are good there would definitely be interest.”
Agents, however, seem less optimistic. “Personally, I wouldn’t choose a low-cost carrier for long-haul flights and neither would my clients as the Gulf carriers have excellent rates to the UK and Europe,” says Yumna Kharodia, MD of Sweet Life Travel. “For short distances domestically and within Africa, people are still adventurous and would consider low-cost carriers, but for long distance they look for aircraft types, reliability of airline etc,” she says.
Tracy Teichmann, Manager of SureTravel, says while there is certainly a demand for lower fares on the London-Johannesburg direct route she isn’t convinced a low-cost carrier is the answer. She says the fares will have to be dirt cheap and presumes low cost will mean paying high fees for checked baggage, preferred seating, priority boarding and maybe even paying for meals on board and headsets. “Pretty soon the carrier will be dubbed ‘that cheap-skate’ airline that pretends to have low fares and makes you freeze and starve for 11 hours and the only entertainment is to listen to your iPod until the battery dies.”