Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Strong demand for World Cup flights

Ashley Cowan, BA regional manager for Africa, said fares over the World Cup month were at levels normally charged during the peak summer season.

He was replying to suggestions in some sections of the British press that many soccer fans would stay away from this country because of the high prices and air fares being charged.

BA has “very healthy bookings” on flights to South Africa during the World Cup 2010 period over June and July.

Cowan said that, in response to demand, BA would put on two extra flights to Johannesburg with its largest Boeing 747-400 aircraft on July 13 and 14, in time for the Cup Final.

They would be in addition to the and one flight to Cape Town daily and two a day to Johannesburg throughout our winter season.

He said bookings on flights out of South Africa were also high during the World Cup period.

In addition to local residents who normally visited the UK and Europe during the northern hemisphere summer, many were leaving South Africa to escape the crowds and hype of the World Cup or because they had let their houses to foreign visitors for the period.

BA is currently facing a renewed threat of a possible strike by cabin crew, depending on the results of a ballot among trade union members that closes on February 22.

A strike planned for the Christmas holiday period was declared illegal by the high court in London because former staff members who had accepted an offer of voluntary redundancy and had already left were among those voting for it.

Cowan said negotiations were continuing and it was “ disappointing we have got to this stage” after concessions had been made.

But even if the strike went ahead some services would continue because, it was not expected to have the support of all cabin crew.

There would also be volunteers from other departments of the airline – including some off-duty pilots – who were already being trained.

“We are hoping that, if the strike goes ahead, there will be a very minimal number of flights cancelled,” said Cowan.

The airline industry worldwide is beginning to recover from the effects of the recession and losses caused by the soaring oil price that preceded it.

BA was hit particularly hard by the fall in international passenger numbers because of its large share of trans Atlantic travel.

But Cowan said that although it had “not quite got to the point of recovery, we have seen the worst”.

Some markets, including those in Africa, were already recovering.

South Africa had always been a strong market for BA and passenger loads were good on both the Johannesburg and Cape Town routes at present.