Perhaps one should think twice about heading to the United Kingdom to visit family and friends for Christmas this year. The days of popping over to the UK for a wedding, the birth of a grandchild, to celebrate Christmas, or just to visit family and friends for around R10 000 appears to be over.
A number of South Africans have British ancestry or significant ties with the UK. The flight and travel bans that were imposed for close to 10 months prevented both Brits and South Africans from travelling between the two countries.
HIGH FARES TO THE UK
The pent-up demand for travel between the UK and South Africa has led to a surge in the prices of flights.
The removal of South Africa from the UK’s red-list on 11 October means that fully vaccinated South Africans can once again travel to the United Kingdom after having been banned from making discretionary trips there since December last year.
Business Insider reports that an adult return ticket from London to Johannesburg around Christmas are priced at over R57 000 with Virgin Atlantic Airways and around R25 000 for the same ticket with British Airways.
UK BOOKINGS POURING IN
Air ticket sales from South Africa to London have tripled since last Thursday’s red-list announcement, Flight Centre said in a statement this week.
According to Flight Centre Travel Group MD Andrew Stark, the UK is one of the international destinations seeing the highest demand from South Africans.
“We have been inundated with enquiries for travel to the UK since the long-overdue announcement by the British government on Thursday evening.
“There’s been a massive spike in enquiries and bookings across our retail travel booking channels and brands, including on our website, in our Flight Centre stores and through Flight Centre Independent,” he said.
Fivefold increase in air tickets from SA to London
Sue Garrett, general manager of supply, pricing and marketing at Flight Centre, said the number of new air tickets issued from South Africa to London increased fivefold since 7 October, according to IOL.
“The majority of air tickets booked have been for departure in November and December 2021. We estimate that many of these bookings are for South Africans finally making plans to reunite with family and friends over the December and January holidays,” she said.
FLYING TO THE UK
The reason for these high prices is not solely due to airlines practising revenue management on flights but also due to a lack of capacity on the route at this time. There is now less capacity on the route between SA and UK due to fewer direct flights being available.
The relaunched South African Airways (SAA) operates a thinned-down schedule with a few regional destinations, as well as Mauritius from next month. The airline has not announced its intention to restart flights to the UK. It will need to acquire new aircraft in order to resume flights on most long-haul routes.
British Airways says it will resume daily services to Johannesburg by mid-December. The airline will also restart its services to Cape Town, offering three flights a week in November, before operating a double daily service in December.
Virgin Atlantic currently operates three flights a week from Johannesburg to London but the airline will increase frequencies to a daily service by the end of the year. It also plans to reinstate direct flights between Cape Town and London as early as January.
UK ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Vaccinated visitors from South Africa are no longer subject to mandatory hotel-managed quarantines but are, however, obligated to provide proof of vaccination as well as to take self-paid COVID-19 tests on the second day after their arrival in the UK.
South Africans require visas to enter the United Kingdom for tourist visits.