By Kenneth Ehigiator
South African Airways (SAA) has concluded plans to increase capacity to operate a 24-hour flight schedule to accommodate the various match times and people wanting to move around for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.
This comes as the airline has also indicated moves to unveil cheaper flights for fans in the run -up to the World Cup.
According to Thobi Duma, SAA Country Manager, Nigeria, the 24-hour schedule will be necessary as some games start at 20:30 in the evening and could finish as late as 23:30 pm in some cases.
Duma said that the airline had thus far adapted its normal flight schedule to add extra flights to all destinations in its current domestic network.
â€œSAA schedule over the 2010 football period will very much remain a work in progress and will adapt it as demand dictates in the lead up to kick off on 11 June,â€ the SAA country manager, Nigeria, disclosed.
She explained that the carrier have opened all seats thus far in full Y (economy) and C (business) class fares and demand for these has been very good adding that the 24/7 operations will fit in with its current operations where it serves a host of destinations around the clock.
Duma chipped in that â€œit will be a big challenge to operate its domestic fleet in this manner, and we are confident that we will be able to pull it off.â€
Explaining further, Duma acknowledged that due to the nature of this operation, SAA is also looking at contingency scenarios so that, in the event of any technical or other issues, it can quickly and effectively recover its schedules.
The SAA country manager, Nigeria, also disclosed that the airline will need additional staff to support and it is currently looking at employing, on a short term basis, sufficient staff to ensure continued 24/7 operations and to ensure that current staff are not overworked, taking into account our existing human resources, policies and procedures.
The airline, she said has also partnered with Match, the official FIFA provider of tickets, accommodation and logistics for this yearâ€™s football event, where they will use 89, 000 one_way flights on SAAâ€™s aircraft.
â€œThese will be exclusive for Match customers and will form part of package deals including accommodation and match tickets for their customers.
Our support includes assistance with ground handling requirements and we are in the process of putting systems in place for these functions on the ground including catering and fueling at the smaller airports,â€ She said.
She further disclosed that SAA will also be operating a fleet of aircraft on behalf of Match according to their requirements, adding that these aircrafts are necessary as visitors will be flying from where they are living in â€œMatchvillesâ€, which are cities which offer accommodation to games and back.
According to her, the fleet of leased aircraft will be leased by SAA from various airlines operating on the African continent as well as international carriers adding that the airlines from which the aircraft will be leased will provide the cockpit and cabin crew to operate them in their own uniforms.
Duma stated that a variety of aircraft types will be used to fly to smaller airports such as Nelspruit, Bloemfontein and Polokwane and leases will be short_term and aircraft will be returned after the World Cup.
She said that the aircrafts which would be known as the â€œMatch aircraftâ€ will operate under the SAA code, meaning the flight numbers will start with SA and then a four digit number to distinguish it from the normal SAA flight numbers that have three digits.
She explained that the flight schedule for the Match aircraft will not be available through SAAâ€™s booking system, or its website (www.flysaa.com <http://www.flysaa.com>), and Voyager members will not be able to earn miles by flying on them, continuing that the flights will be reflected on the information systems at the airports and also tickets on the SAA and the Match Fleets will also not be interchangeable.
On the airlineâ€™s fare pricing strategy, the South Africa national carrier boss in Nigeria explained that there are a number of different fares categories with cheaper flights that will be made available in the run up to the World Cup, noting that; â€œless than 20% of SAAâ€™s published domestic fares during the World Cup period include a 50% increase in full fare (highest fare category) business and economy class.â€
She explained that the increases are limited and have been implemented to offset the higher cost of running a 24_hour operation, which SAA has planned for the duration of the World Cup.
â€œSAA is not charging a premium that is distorted or unfair but one that attempts to cover increases in operating costs. The pricing structure makes provision for all passengers through low to high faresâ€, Duma disclosed.