Emirates Airlines is working to get its passenger operations to South Africa back on track, boosting flights and planning the reintroduction of a daily Airbus A380 service on its Johannesburg route from the end of the month. While clearly optimistic, the airline is taking a cautious and balanced approach to rebuilding capacity and monitoring demand.
Sharing details of the carrier’s re-entry strategy, Regional Manager Southern Africa, Afzal Parambil, told Tourism Update that the main focus at the moment was to maintain and grow load factors. “And we’re watching that very closely. We are already seeing a healthy surge in demand across our three gateways – Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg – and hope that, in the longer term and based on our performance, we can expand our presence to pre-pandemic levels.”
The carrier has expanded its weekly schedule to South Africa to 28 flights from this month. Double-daily flights to Johannesburg are scheduled from December 1, and daily flights to Cape Town and Durban. It will be the airline’s largest weekly schedule to South Africa since the start of the pandemic. From January, it plans to add a second A380 on its Johannesburg route.
Trade partnerships on track
Parambil said the airline was working actively with its trade partners in South Africa to rebuild leisure and corporate business. Dubai remained a popular holiday gateway, he explained, and Emirates had also resuscitated its commercial relationship with SAAto collect more traffic from connecting markets on the new SAA’s revised route network.
“We have empowered our trade partners to deliver even better customer experiences on Emirates Gateway, including access to the widest range of Emirates fare products, differentiated pricing, such as dedicated promotional fares and pre-sales, enhanced customer servicing and experiences, and differentiated pricing for selected ancillary services, and faster access to new ancillary products.”
Concerning Emirates’ interline agreements, Parambil said its existing partnerships with Airlink, CemAir and FlySafair, as well as SAA, added access to 79 cities beyond its gateways in South Africa across the continent.
More A380 services resume
By the end of November, the carrier will have reinstated A380 services to 27 cities and is on track to bring more than 50 of its A380s back into service by the end of the year. It also plans to reopen its airport lounge in Johannesburg later this month.
Looking ahead, Parambil said EK had already recovered 90% of its pre-pandemic network and planned to restore 70% of capacity by the close of 2021.
While Emirates’ operation reflects confidence, a full-scale recovery will take time and buy-in from trade partners and the travelling public.
“COVID-19 has created a state of play in the industry that is unprecedented in scale, and Emirates has had to navigate the complexities of extensive travel and border restrictions along with a number of other challenges. Today we have reinstated flights to over 120 cities globally, with safe and convenient connections via our Dubai hub,” he said.
“We are optimistic about demand improving even further as we move through 2021 into 2022, and we are on standby to ramp up our operations across the network even further and support South Africa’s tourism recovery as travellers once again head out to discover the world. We’re also seeing strong bookings to and from Dubai for the back half of this year and for next year, demonstrating the diversity of Dubai’s offering for leisure and business travellers.”