Right now is a really, really good time to book December flights

A huddle of passengers waiting to check in to a then-rare flight from Cape Town, in later November 2021, amid pandemic restrictions.

Price analysis

  • Flight prices have been a bit crazy, if you can get a seat at all, for both domestic and international flights.
  • But, as of right now, there are reasonably-priced tickets to be had for traditional domestic peak travel times in December.
  • Oil prices could – in theory – come down sharply before then, but nobody really thinks that is likely.
  • So this may be as good as it gets, before everyone starts looking ahead to summer travel.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

At times during July, you could pay R5,000 to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town – one way. But you would have had to fly during the week, because every weekend flight was sold out.

Right now, you’ll still have a hard time flying between Johannesburg and Cape Town for a weekend at all, and for mid-week flights – in the winter, with nothing much going on – you will be lucky to find a seat for under R2,000.

Foreign travel isn’t cheap either. The average price of a ticket to the USA is up a fifth since pre-pandemic 2019.

And things were a lot worse during recent traditional travel peaks, with our calculations showing that families should have considered buying a cheap car rather than flying between major cities for the June 16th weekend.

Domestically, the collapse of Comair, which took 40% of local capacity with it, contributed to high prices. Other airlines, most notably FlySafair have tried to plug those gaps, but are constrained by a pandemic-induced shortage of planes and crew.

Those constraints have also caused global trouble, and then ground-handling problems caused chaos and saw flights canceled, a mess not expected to be resolved this year.

See also | Air travel chaos, disruptions around the world could last until the end of 2023 –Heathrow CEO

One theoretical positive change for airline prices would be a sudden resolution of the war in Ukraine that sees invader Russia welcomed back to international trade. That would be on the order of a miracle, with predictions including a long-dragging war or ongoing isolation for Russia after its defeat, but nothing that would see Russian oil suddenly flow to NATO customers again.

But grim as all the forecasts are, prices for flights far enough ahead – such as December 2022 – are currently pretty good. Seats are available, and at not much of a premium either, even for peak travel days.

There is no foreseeable reason why prices will go anywhere but up from here. Any promotions, for instance, will be on very limited seat numbers, outside of peak times.

On the other side of the coin, the speed with which banks moved to reimburse Comair ticket-holders suggests it is a safe investment to lock down tickets early, if you can plan that far in advance, even in a market in deep turmoil.

If you want to get ahead of the crowd, which will only grow with every payday, now is the time to plan your travel for the summer holidays.

Average prices can be misleading, though, and that goes double for price forecasts. So we tested a very specific, and very common trip: escaping Johannesburg as soon as it shuts down for Christmas.

Our airline price quotations use a family of four, with two kids under 12 but old enough to need their own seat. All members of our hypothetical family would have standard luggage requirements, so nothing special such as golf clubs or bicycles. Unless otherwise specified, we select flights at a civilized hour, no red-eyes or midnight specials.

Here’s what they will pay to get away.

For a season-peak round trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town: call it R18,000 – or R13,000 with a bit of flexibility

FlySafair this week quoted us a total of R17,817 for our family, for return flights covering the heaviest of travel times. That is to depart on 16 December (which falls on a Friday this year), and returning on 30 December, because as all Joburgers know, after two weeks in the Cape you really need to see in the New Year back in Gauteng.

You can get just about the same price from Lift for the 16 December tickets; it came in at R18,080 for our test family.

Don’t bother to look at SAA or CemAir, which want at least R20,000 for the standard flights.

But you can save 30% on what comes to about R2,250 per person per flight without having to do stuff like travel with hand luggage only. On FlySafair, you can fly out on the Sunday night, 18 December, and return on 31 December (on an evening flight) instead of at the peak travel times, and that same family will pay R12,648.

That’s a little under R1,600 per person per flight.

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