Luxury travel in South Africa is a growing market, leading to the development of luxury connections as well.
According to Karin Murray, Senior Manager of Sales and Marketing at Airlink, there are a number of options in South Africa for luxury connections. They are often between key tourist regions. For example, says Murray: “Airlink operates daily scheduled flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Skukuza Airport. The return of scheduled air services to Skukuza Airport was momentous in the context of South African tourism as this has allowed all tourism stakeholders and tourists the ability to gain direct access to a variety of important and globally renowned wildlife destinations within the Kruger Park and nearby Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, thereby providing a far more integrated and effective leisure travel product to the global market.”
Kapama Private Game Reserve near Hoedspruit in the Greater Kruger area recently launched a fly-in service, offerings guests the chance to reach the reserve directly from Johannesburg or Cape Town. Brand Manager at the reserve, Nicole Walker, says the response has been excellent. “From the number of enquiries we have had since the launch of our service, it shows the need and clear demand in the market for additional travel options. As a luxury five-star destination, Kapama found it imperative to offer the discerning traveller a more tailor-made and exclusive travel option to get to Kapama, where every need could be provided for,” she says.
A luxury connection offers the traveller a number of benefits. A shorter travel time is often the most popular reason for choosing a luxury option. Murray says: “By providing shorter connections and seamless connectivity, it allows the traveller the luxury of additional time at the destination or product, enhancing their overall experience.” Dean Cherry, MD of Nhongo Safaris, agrees: “A luxury connection does cut down on travel time, especially by air, which would cut between 15 and 30 minutes.”
Security is often a concern for travellers in South Africa. Luxury travel is one way to ensure strict security. For example, Walker says: “For guests feeling unsure of where to go and what to do, being met at one end, escorted directly to the plane and welcomed as they step off at the other end does offer peace of mind, and also limits the number of interactions with luggage and personal effects.” She goes on to explain that, compared with road travel, a luxury fly-in service offers peace of mind: “Guests who might feel unsure about the quality of the roads or if they will have adequate GPS signal throughout their road trip, will feel more comfortable and at ease to be met on arrival at one airport, escorted through the terminal and greeted with a friendly smile as soon as they touch down on the other side, as happens with Kapama and the collaboration with Fireblade Aviation.”
Baggage requirements on luxury connections vary. Cherry says: “When travelling on a luxury connection, normally due to small aircraft being used, luggage restrictions will be in place.” Walker says at Kapama the exclusivity of its service means restrictions are not very limiting. “For Kapama's fly-in guests, we try our best to limit the number of passengers to six per flight, which means giving our guests a restriction on luggage does not become a factor.” Murray adds that at Airlink, economy-class passengers are far more limited with what they are allowed, with an extra 10kg for business-class travellers, taking the checked-luggage allowance to 30kg. She adds: “Airlink’s lodge link service offers free baggage storage facilities at Skukuza Airport and Nelspruit for passengers utilising a minimum of two consecutive lodge link flights.”
For those travelling with children, there is a range of options for luxury connections in South Africa. Murray notes that Airlink’s flights are accessible for all ages and “especially enhance the multi-generational family travellers’ experience”. However, Cherry notes with caution that some lodges are age limited and thus connections to the lodges will be limited as well. However, he adds: “We see an increasing number of lodges that are increasing their child age limits.” Walker says Kapama does not have any age restriction and passengers on its fly-in service can be any age. Fanie Van Zyl, MD of SA Coach Charters, says luxury connections often focus on adult travellers or young adult groups.