South Africa could lose a potential aircraft capacity of 966 seats per week, following the insolvency of Thomas Cook and the cancellation of Thomas Cook Airlines services.

Thomas Cook Airlines operated a seasonal service from London Gatwick to Cape Town between December and March. The aircraft operated on the route was an Airbus A330-200, which has a capacity of 273 seats in economy, and 49 premium seats; a total of 322 seats, three times a week.

South Africa will now lose 966 seats per week for the December-March season. “The cancellation of the flights means that there is reduced capacity between the two destinations, so it will impact on [arrival] numbers. We will monitor this,” says Desrie Govender, Marketing and Communications, Cape Town Air Access. “There remains a number of connection options with airlines through their extended network, and we believe Cape Town will maintain its overall desirability.”

Govender says that London remains a top inbound market for the Western Cape, and while the Gatwick connection provided travellers with a choice of departure options, it shouldn’t impact the overall desirability of the destination. “Condor will continue flight operations to Cape Town from Germany as planned,” she says.

As of August 31, Thomas Cook had 8.888 passengers confirmed for the season on the Gatwick-Cape Town-Gatwick route, according to Charmaine Thome, GM for AVIAREPS Southern Africa, who was the general sales agent for Thomas Cook in South Africa.  “South Africa has a short booking period, with it being September and the season only starting in December for Thomas Cook UK, we cannot say exactly what the loads would have been for the season, although up to August 2019 we had seen a 6% increase in bookings on the route.” Thome says that this would have increased dramatically in the next couple of months as the launch date approached.

Less competition means higher praises

Charmaine also raised concerns that with the loss of the Thomas Cook flight, a monopoly would be created on the direct Cape Town-London route. “Fares in peak season started at R10 800 (on Thomas Cook Airlines), comparing with the only other direct carrier, British Airways, whose fares we see sold at R15 500.” The increased fares and less capacity will mean that numbers from the UK will decrease, creating a larger impact across the tourism sector, Thome said.

Thome says that Condor is returning for the season, having broken away from the Thomas Cook group. “They are a good alternative via Frankfurt, offering several connections into London per day.” Condor is operating flights as usual, and the airline is still planning to increase Cape Town flights from three-weekly to a four-weekly schedule, effective October 28.