Fewer people fly to Cape Town

There has been a decrease in the number of arrivals into Cape Town international airport over the festive season according to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which blames the fall-off on airlines dropping international flights and the closure of two low-cost domestic carriers.

The total number of passengers that passed through the airport during the month of December was just under 760,000 – a six per cent decrease compared to December 2011. Of this figure, 162,774 were international and regional travellers, and 597,213 were domestic. International arrivals dropped by 10 per cent on the year before, while domestic arrivals fell by six per cent.

The international flights that were discontinued in 2012 include: the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways which operated seven flights a week; the South African Airways (SAA) London-Heathrow service which operated seven flights a week; and Air Malaysia’s four “loss-making” weekly flights to Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The budget domestic airlines that closed down were the Durban-based Velvet Sky which ceased operating in February 2012 after less than in year in business; and the Gauteng-based 1Time which went into liquidation in November after eight years. Velvet Sky operated 39 flights a week, and 1Time operated 51 weekly flights.

A number of seasonal carriers began operating out of Cape Town last October, including Virgin Atlantic with its direct flights to London-Heathrow; Air France with direct flights to Paris-Charles de Gaulle; Swiss charter Edelweiss Air with direct flights to Zurich in Switzerland; Condor Airlines with direct flights to Frankfurt in Germany; and Lufthansa with flights to Munich, Germany.

Meanwhile Cape Town Tourism sounded an optimistic note for February 2013, which it expects to be the busiest month for its sector. The tourism body said that during December more than three million people visited the V&A Waterfront, while the Table Mountain Cableway sold a record number of tickets (119,000) - the highest monthly sale since its inauguration in 1928 – attributed in part to the recent inauguration of Table Mountain as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

However the news was not as good for Robben Island, west of Cape Town, famous for its prison in which former South African president Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. The island’s visitor numbers continue to drop, this time by about 1,000 visitors in December, after receiving 3,140 less visitors in December 2011 than the year before.