SAA stops Cape Town to London flights

Bizarre news from South Africa’s national carrier is that they are pulling their direct CPT – LHR services from August 2012. The reasons cited included:

a 24 percent drop in demand between Britain and South Africa for all carriers in the past three years, as well as dwindling passengers from Cape Town to London as a destination and for onward connections and the fact that competitors also offered cost effective routes from Cape Town.

It’s not the first time SAA has cut a high profile route from its portfolio. Back in November 2010, it dropped its Cape Town to Durban flights. But for me, this announcement is bizarre, simply because it comes just a couple of days after hugely encouraging figures from Cape Town International Airport and Western Cape Tourism, showing that:

CTIA received over 215 000 international travellers in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is a year-on-year increase of 14.5%.

Which doesn’t seem to fit with that SAA claim of falling demand.

It’s not great news for us expats (or anyone else wanting to get to the UK and back) in Cape Town as it will reduce competition on the route (not that SAA were ever really very competitive on prices anyway). Of course, you can still use the SAA service to London via Joburg, but since it adds a minimum of 4 extra hours to the journey, yet still costs as much as a direct flight, why would you want to do that?

UPDATE: Cape Town Tourism press release on the SAA announcement.