In recent years, South Africa has welcomed a number of low cost air carriers into the local market - with a resultant (and much appreciated) drop in the cost of internal air flights.
The three major carriers are Kulula (www.kulula.com), 1Time (www.1Time.co.za) and Mango (www.flymango.com) - with Mango actually being a subsidiary of the national carrier, South African Airways. All three cover the major cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban) and between them, they provide reasonable coverage of the 'second tier' destinations - see the list below for details. However, linkages between the 'second tier' destinations are few and far between, so be prepared for the fact that if you're intending to travel between these towns, you'll probably have to fly via one of the three major cities.
At the time of writing (September 2011), these operators covered the following towns and cities in South Africa:
Mango - Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein
1Time - Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, East London, George, Port Elizabeth
Kulula - Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, George, Nelspruit
It's worth noting that Mango and Kulula now fly from Lanseria airport (north of Johannesburg) as well as O R Tambo, although this is more likely to be of use to locals than international travellers whose point of entry will most likely be OR Tambo.
1Time and Kulula are also looking to spread their wings (if you'll excuse the pun) into neighbouring countries, which is a very welcome development for budget travellers. At the time of writing, these were as follows:
1Time - Zanzibar (Tanzania), Livingstone (Zambia), Maputo (Mozambique)
Kulula - Zanzibar (Tanzania), Livingstone (Zambia), Maputo and Vilanculos (both in Mozambique), Harare (Zimbabwe), Windhoek (Namibia), Lusaka and Ndola (both in Zambia) and Gaborone (Botswana)
As with all low cost carriers, the usual caveats apply. Their business model is all about putting 'bums on seats', so don't expect any frills or in flight service (although drinks and snacks can be purchased on board). However, they have not yet caught onto the Ryanair scam of imposing draconian baggage restrictions, so at the time of writing, all offered full baggage allowances of 20kg per person.
The best way to book with these carriers is to book online, using the website above.
Make sure that you have photo ID with you, and if you're travelling with children, you'll need some sort of identification for them too (I travel with a certified copy of their birth certificates, but passports are the best option for international visitors).
Just one final piece of advice. If you're planning to visit towns other than Cape Town or Johannesburg (the two main ports of entry to South Africa), before you rush out and book with a low cost carrier, first check to see whether you can purchase a ticket through to your final destination with your international carrier. Often carriers such as SAA and BA will provide a very competitive rate on the connecting internal flight, which may well be cheaper than a low cost carrier ticket, so check this option out first. Do be aware that if you take this option, you will still need to clear passport control and customs at your point of entry (which means that you have to collect your luggage in the international terminal and then recheck it in the domestic terminal).
Update (September 2013): Sadly since this tip was written, 1Time (which was my low cost carrier of choice) has gone under, with some of their routes/slots being picked up by Mango. Nonetheless, the competition is still vibrant enough to keep prices in check.
(work in progress)
South African Airways has just announced its intention to discontinue its London Heathrow - Cape Town flight, citing reduced traveller numbers. The service will be discontinued in August 2012.
Travellers to Cape Town will therefore have to fly into Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International airport, clear immigration and customs and transfer onto a two hour domestic flight to Cape Town.
This is a very straightforward exercise, and is already the preferred routing for the majority of Brits visiting Cape Town as it's usually been the cheaper option. This arrangement also allows you to take advantage of several low cost carriers that service the Johannesburg - Cape Town route: note that unlike most European low cost carriers, at the time of writing (June 2012) the fares quoted include a full 20kg luggage allowance.
Should you require more information on this, click here for a users' guide that I've developed for O.R. Tambo International.
Kulula and 1Time fly into Cape Town and generally offer the cheapest tickets. SAA and BA are often 3 or 4 times the price. Shop around and always look for the "best fare prices". If your dates are flexible - all the better.
I flew into Cape Town International airport, the facility is truly world class and well designed The design is light, airy and well throught out, and it is a pleasure to be able to board directly from the terminal building.
Other nice touches are the Woolworths store in the terminal building , which provides an opportunity for essential last minute toiletry and personal care product purchases, as well as a range of sandwiches.
I flew into Cape Town International airport this weekend, and was absolutely gobsmacked by the transformation - what a marvellous difference!
For those of us who have had to mentally gird our loins every time we travel to Cape Town in anticipation of dealing with the most recent developments on the construction site, it is refreshing (and a great relief) to report that the final result was worth all the intervening pain! Well done ACSA - Airports Company of South Africa - (not usually my favourite organisation) on a job very well done!
The facility is truly world class and well designed as an integrated whole (rather than the previous clumsy arrangement between domestic and international). The design is light, airy and well throught out, and it is a pleasure to be able to board and disembark directly from the terminal building rather than having to access the planes via a bus as previously. Other nice touches are the Woolworths store in the terminal building (also in Johannesburg), which provides an opportunity for essential last minute toiletry and personal care product purchases, as well as a range of scrumptious sandwiches, baguette and wraps which are healthier and more affordable than what's on offer in the fast foor outlets.
A couple of small quibbles: the hire car area is at some distance from the terminal - particularly the return area. If the weather is extreme - as it often is in Cape Town - you will run the risk of either getting thoroughly drenched or exhausted in the heat as there are no covered walkways between the hire car return area and the pedestrian underpass between the hire car offices and the main building. The underpass is also a bit of a mission for people who are less than fit, physically challenged or are travelling with heavy luggage, as the gradients into and out of the tunnel are steep (I certainly felt like I'd had a workout by the time that I emerged). The slopes into and out of the underpass are long, with an almost uniform gradient and fairly slippery surface, so if someone were to lose control of their trolley, they would slip back to the base of the slope, potentially causing serious injury to themselves and anyone below them on the slope.
I am also unconvinced by the 'trolley-friendly' escalators between the entrance and the check in area upstairs - these look unsafe to me, and I can imagine that it is only a matter of time before someone lets go of their trolley, and it slips down the escalator, depositing trolley, owner and everyone standing behind them in a sorry, crumpled heap at the bottom of the escalator. To my mind, it would have been much better to make had the series of moving walkways that have been installed at OR Tambo domestic terminal in Johannesburg.
Nevetheless, a job very well done - ACSA, you can take a bow!
South African Airways is the national carrier for South Africa. While they do offer great service for connections around the world, their service on their aircraft is not the greatest. I was sat in one of the upper rows of their 747 jet, right next to the toilet. Not the greatest of seats to have. Also there is so little space for any hand luggage up there that I had to take my bags to business class and store them there--apparently this is a common practice. Even though I was on the aisle and had the potential to get bumped or accidentally stepped on--it happened with such frequency that I began to ignore it, which is a big deal on a 12 hour flight. The food was airline food but they did ask what type of wine I would like--it was a given with the meal. Their entertainment selection was quite good as well and it gave the passenger any option they wanted if they wanted to watch a movie, listen to music, or a tv program they could stop and restart at any time.
I would use them again but I think I would go for the upgrade. I was lucky enough to get an exit row on the way back from Cape Town because the ticket agent realized that being my height (6'4") I could be more comfortable there. Bless her!! One thing to keep in mind is that the non-stop London-Cape Town flight is usually very full both ways.
If you are hanging around the Cape Town International airport and think you forgot a gift for that special someone--not to worry. There are some shops that incorporate all your last minute needs from biltong, wine, souveniers to those "someone from Cape Town loves me" t-shirts. There are also a few restaurants to visit also.
Kulula is the new budget airline for internal flights in South Africa. Don’t expect any frills, you can buy snacks from the jean-clad air hostesses. A flight from Jo’burg to CT cost about R1200 in Jan 2003. You could also try SAA.
There was a cheaper airline than Malaysian from Manila all the way to Cape Town. And it was:
COST: $1050 Roundtrip from Manila to Cape Town with tax included.
Qatar airlines was cheaper, but its flight is much longer. Imagine it's already 14 hours from Manila to Cape Town via KL. It'll probably be 24 hours from Manila to Cape Town via Doha! And don't forget the stop overs, they can be killers. (Our stop over in Doha was supposed to be around 11 hours!)
Still, it can be cheaper than Malaysian so here's a tip:
TIP: Canvas around. Look for other airlines and compare which was is the cheapest!
SO WHY DIDN'T WE TAKE QATAR?
It's a long story but to make it short:
Oh! It was because of the stupid travel agency! You see, we THOUGHT we had the tickets already. (We had the e-ticket papers.) We were even already excited to ride Qatar but suddenly, just out of the blues, could you believe it? That travel agency merged and the employee, the one we book our tickets with, just LEFT WITHOUT even booking our tickets! (Take note: Without us knowing it!)
In short, we were about to go to the airport jumping up and down and telling the counter girl excitedly:
"Here's our tickets to Cape Town!"
But then, without us knowing it, the counter girl would have told us:
"I'm sorry, but your tickets are invalid."
I would have felt like killing myself!
Could you imagine that?
And the worst part is,
We could have lost $4000+ dollars right away!
That's our 5 years savings!
Mom would have really gone berserk if that happened! (Which would actually be fun to video)
When this happened, we went crazy. We didn't know what to do.
But eventually, we calmed down a bit and called Qatar. And it turns out,
Our worst fears came true:
We really had no ticket.
The employee who left, really didn't book our tickets.
We wanted to kill the travel agency!
But that'll just land us in jail so,
We just had to get along well with the new employees in the travel agency and in the end, thank god!
They replaced our invalid Qatar ticket with a valid Malaysian ticket.
We just had to add 100 dollars.
Actually, in the end, it was quite a blessing. Because if we took Qatar, our flight would have been much longer and we wouldn't even have gotten a stopover there. But with Malaysian, our flight was much shorter and we even had a 3 day stopover there at the end of the trip!
So, I'm glad this happened.
Do you want to be treated first class? Malaysian Airlines can pamper and spoil you all the way to Cape Town!
COST: $1200 Roundtrip, all in with tax included from Manila to Cape Town AND including a 3 day stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
HOW WE GOT IT:
It was an internet promo: We found the fare in the Malaysian Airline's website just 2 weeks before our trip! We were lucky to find this fare- it's usually more expensive than that.
TIP: Always check on Malaysian's website. Sometimes they give out promo fares in the last minute. We even saw a Manila to Buenos Aires roundtrip with taxes included for only $1000! Now, that's a bargain.
You can also add $40 if you want to stopover in Kuala Lumpur and you can stay as long as you want!
When we were going to take Malaysian Airlines, my aunt got shocked.
AUNT: "Ay, Malaysian Airlines! Is that even a nice airline?"
Well, guess what?
My aunt was wrong.
Malaysian airlines was a fantastic airline!
It made my 30 hour trip from Manila to Cape Town fun, relaxing and memorable.
The seats were okay. I wasn't squeezed in like a sardine and I was able to sleep, well so I guess it wasn't so bad.
MICHAEL: I just hated our seatmates! Imagine we had to be neighbors with a cranky old lady who scolded us for making noise?
MOM: And she scolded me for turning on the lights.
MICHAEL: But if her husband laughs and talks to her, she doesn't mind! It's so unfair!
MOM: Well, she's like grandma! That's what your grandma would do before when she wasn't senile.
MICHAEL: I felt like killing her!
The food wasn't so bad. I didn't starve. The Malaysian breakfast was especially interesting. It tickles your tongue! I kept laughing while eating it. (Is this the magic of spicy foods?)
Oh, the best! With hundreds of different TV channels, music tracks to choose from, how can you get bored?
MOM: I liked watching that movie. It was funny! I wonder what my boys watched.
MICHAEL: R rated!
Oh yeah! I sure enjoyed watching an R rated movie they had on board. It even showed all the juicy details! I was really laughing and laughing.
MOM: Oh! All you boys think is trash.
The crew were very nice- even the male stewards. They were the best stewardesses I've seen in all my travels! Some examples are like:
Farmah (KL-Johannesburg flight)
In this flight, among all the crew. The one that appeared like a golden goose, like a dream stewardess to me was Farmah.
MICHAEL: She was the dream stewardess.
It wasn't hard to understand why,
She really was so friendly and charming! Could you believe it? She actually kept her smile straight for ten whole hours! That's amazing. That's hard to do. And she chatted with almost every passenger yet she still served fast! Wow...
Nuriazah (Johannesburg-Cape Town flight)
Nuriazah was another jackpot stewardess. She was also very friendly and charming. She even gave us Malaysian Airline model toy for free! Now, that, I got shocked! That was the first time a stewardess did that to me in my life! I felt very flattered.
And there were so many other nice stewards and stewardesses yet. This tip will probably be 20 pages long if I narrate all of them! In short most of the crew displayed Malaysian hospitality. And Malaysian hospitality, is really legendary.
Malaysian's airline motto is: MH, more than just an airline code. It's Malaysian Hospitality.
And it's really true.
It was a smooth flight. Sigh, I wish it was more turbulent.
There is several different ways to get to Cape Town, I guess we took the "fast way"... We jumped on South African Airways from NYC/ JFK airport.....it's a very, very long flight....it's 8 hours to Dakar, Senegal where it stops for about 1 1/2 hour as some passengers get on and off and the crew changes...and then another 8 hours to Johanesburg....and then we switched terminal and got on a domestic flight to Cape Town which was only 2 hours......
I must say the service was very good on these flights...the entertainment system on the seat in front of you has some 15 different movies to choose from. Also it has some 15 different games, and various other tv shows and music selections.
The other way of getting there is via Europe....such as London, Frankfurt, or Paris....but it's still 11 hours....or you could go thru South America....Buenos Aires, and San Paulo have flights to South Africa....they're about 9 to 10 hours also....so to make a long story short there isn't a short cut in getting to South Africa....just bring yourself a good book, a neck pillow, your IPOD or computer with an extra battery, and most importanly YOUR PATIENCE !!!!!!
Cape Town International Airport is South Africa's second largest airport after Johannesburg International Airport, and a prime tourism gateway!
The Cape is one of the country's major tourist destinations. The airport is often the visitor's first encounter with South Africa, and a good example she is too! :)
I had never heard of Nationwide before researching our trip, but I read good reviews about it and was amazed by the great prices to travel business class from Gatwick
the plane was rather dated, but was very comfortable, the food was the best I have ever eaten on a plane, the service excellent and the timing of our 10 1/2 hour flight meant that we could sleep all night and arrive at Johannasberg Airport refreshed where we transferred to a local flight to Cape Town
our return journey was just as good, this was the best flight we have ever had
Nationwide flies from Gatwick North Terminal in the UK, and operates domestic and international flights in Africa, I can definately recommend Nationwide if flying to South Africa
Kulula must be the worlds funniest airline, what other airline tells you durung the safety briefing that if you are caught smoking in the toilet during the flight you will be made to sit on the naughty seat on the wing ? announcements were fun not boring and made us laugh
I suppose if you fly regularly with Kulula the jokes become a tad stale, but we just flew with then twice, to Port Elizabeth and back to Cape Town, Kulula is a no-frills budget airline but the seats are comfortable and we had enough legroom
Years ago, Cape Town's airport had a tiny itnernational section. Tiny means about 2 international flights per day. Most of the external flights were via Johannesburg. Since then, the city's itnernational terminal has expanded and there are more flights. If you are going to visit Cape Town only, it might pay you to come directly to the city. Only use Johannesburg if it is necessary.
Cape Town Airport is two different worlds: the international arrivals bit (clean, modern, well laid out) and the rest of it: international departures and the domestic terminal - crampled, dark, chaotic, sweaty. Disgraceful.
There is a tourist information desk in international arrivals, and is an efficient place with useful shops, clearly marked areas, good signs....how it should be. The rest makes Lagos Airport look well-designed.