Air connectivity fosters growth

With increased air connectivity and hotel development across the islands, the Indian Ocean region continues to be a favourite incentive destination for South African corporates. Kim Cochrane reports.

New and more routes to Indian Ocean destinations are burgeoning.

Air Madagascar has seen a positive response from the travel trade to the news that it has put Johannesburg back on its map, says Isla Moffett, commercial manager at Border Air, GSA representative for the airline in SA.

“From June 18, Air Madagascar is introducing twice-weekly flights on Tuesdays and Sundays between Antananarivo and Johannesburg after an absence of four years.”

The arrival time in Antananarivo allows passengers from Johannesburg to enjoy the same-day connection to several domestic destinations (flights operated by Tsaradia) such as Nosy Be, Antsiranana or Taolagnaro, she says.

After consolidation and Air Austral purchasing 49% of the airline in 2017, Air Madagascar is now in a position to expand its network and South Africa is a key market, confirms Border Air ceo, Lu Dowell.

Maldivian Airlines continues to eye SA as part of its global expansion plan, although no launch date is available yet, confirms Shona Pittaway, md of Perfect Destinations.

“As Maldivian Airlines is a national carrier and the route is a scheduled operation, the Johannesburg leg is connected to onward routes, primarily into China. Due to heavy global flight traffic into China, the onward leg has incurred delays. This remains a work in progress by the airline.”

Travel agents can, however, once again book direct flights to the Maldives as ATO Tours has signed a new charter agreement with SAA to operate once-weekly non-stop flights to the southern Maldives, landing at Gan International Airport. The airport is a short boat charter from many of the Maldives exquisite beach resorts and the non-stop flight – which cuts out a stop-over – has reduced flying time to just seven hours.

From September 1, Mango’s newly launched Lanseria-Zanzibar service will move to Sundays as a permanent scheduled service. The route was initially introduced at the end of May on a trial basis for the month of June.

Marian Sandu, ceo of Holiday Packages by AfricaStay, says this is an amazing opportunity to increase traffic into Zanzibar. “Mango has organised the scheduling of the flight to connect seamlessly with flights from Cape Town and Durban on the same day. This is a first for flights to Zanzibar.”

Moffett adds that, from June 3, Air Seychelles has increased the number of flights from JNB to SEZ from five to seven over the period of 12 months, with an increase in capacity since the A320neo will be deployed on the route from August this year.

This means Air Seychelles is servicing Johannesburg daily as part of its 2019 summer schedule.

“Current capacity is 116 passengers per flight, but with the A320neo, the capacity increases to 168 passengers per flight.”

Until October 26, Air Seychelles is also servicing Antananarivo twice a week from July 3 and Mauritius five times weekly, including a new Saturday night flight starting from July 6.

In terms of overall connectivity in the region, Mauritius is the best-served island in terms of flights from South Africa, with numerous carriers servicing this destination, Isla believes.

Réunion has two flights a week on a Tuesday and Sunday and in the high season offers a third flight on a Friday, says Isla.

“From an inter-island perspective, Air Austral probably has the best network with flights from Réunion to the Comoros, Mauritius, Mayotte, Seychelles and Madagascar (Antananarivo, Fort Dauphin, Tulear, Tamatave and Nosy Be) and on its subsidiary EWA Air – Mozambique (Pemba) Tanzania (Dar es Salaam) and Comoros (Anjouan and Moroni).”

Air Tanzania will start flying four times a week between Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam from June 28.