As the end of year draws near final travel plans are put together. Accommodation confirmed (those booking now will be left with the scraps), house sitters organised, Christmas presi list ticked off, and of course, those goddamn flights are booked. You’d think we’d have it easy here when it comes to travel between our biggest cities, especially seeing as we have two amazing low cost airlines, Mango and Kulula – according to their ad campaigns, funny jingles and bright colours. The fact of the matter is they’re not. They started out cheap, but they have to remind us of this so often they’re only a round at the bar away from charging what the airlines that give you a bar tab are asking.
Just today I see Kulula is doing something else incredibly clever and well executed. I’m not sure what it is yet, I haven’t looked, mostly because I couldn’t give a fuck about who they are talking to, what they are saying or how clever they are being about it. I’m sure Mango’s probably banging on too, somewhere. Most likely about their amazing offering of WiFi – for those that simply can’t get through a two hour flight without updating their Facebook status. One of them is in all likelihood also punting the comedian on the cover of their latest issue, by now most likely someone as amusing as Siv Ngesi.
Why am I not bothered with any of these things? BECAUSE MANGO AND KULULA ARE AIRLINES! Why the hell would I be interested in anything they have to say unless it has something to do with them dropping their prices to those of actual low cost airlines? They’re selling us shit we don’t need and making out like we should be thankful. In a country where your choice of low cost airline, or any form of airline really, comes down to a selection you can count on one hand, the only factor I and everyone else I’ve asked, consider, is cost. Unless you’re a business man with business class seats and a neat whiskey waiting for you in your VIP lounge, I very much doubt you are loyal to one carrier. Or that one carriers advertising is going to want to make you fly more. We fly when we need to and each time we need to the process is the same.
‘Which carrier will offer me the cheapest ticket?‘ This is the question the bulk of SA fliers (and I’d say 99% of the low cost airline target market) ask when in need of a flight. Faces on magazines, award winning advertising campaigns, or ridiculously cheesy safety briefings and bad jokes are never considered. Not once have I ever thought ‘You know what, Mango is cheaper, but that last Kulula advert was so good I’m going to fly with them instead‘. It all comes down to cost, the problem is everyone seems to have forgotten that.
Sure, they both do their midnight sales where the offer is a one-way ticket to PE on a Wednesday between a Tuesday and Thursday during the thirty seventh week of the year, if your name is Patrick and you’re between the ages of five and five and two months. An offering I may have purchased just to feel like I got a deal on a flight, but the websites crash if ten people Google the airlines name, so those don’t really help.
According to Wikipedia a low cost airline (also known as a no-frills, discount or budget carrier) is “an airline that generally has lower fares and fewer comforts. To make up for revenue lost in decreased ticket prices, the airline may charge for extras like food, priority boarding, seat allocating, and baggage etc“. The planes are usually second hand too, and in the case of 1Time, will more than likely fall out of the sky on occasion. So the planes are old, and besides your ticket, you pay extra for everything else with the exception of the toilet.
When you look at it like this, and at the average difference between carrier costs (other than over December), you could argue that it’s better to fly with the likes of SAA. You can drink for free, you get food, and then you can drink for free some more. The best thing about them though is that they don’t bother advertising, not like the others do at least. Sure they keep getting bailed out, but what’s a few extra billion from the government, they’ve got no idea of how to spend it anyway. Unfortunately Kulula aren’t as lucky, or wont be until a ministers child is sitting on the board, yet they seem to have heaps of cash to spend on marketing. Marketing that could, if done well, make them seem more appealing than their competition, which is of course only one other airline. It’s a two horse race they’ve made to look like the Durban July.
Kulula and Mango, why not forget about spending money you don’t have on trying to look the coolest or be our best friend and focus on delivering what you promised to us in the first place. Because, to be honest, we’re never going to be best friends – I’m never going to get on with someone that forces me to sit next to a foul smelling fatty who hogs the arm rests, I just want to use you to get to the places I need to get to, and at a good price if possible. If you can’t do that, stop pretending to be a low cost airline, put your prices up by R200 and let me drink for free on the way to Joburg, or at least during your now incredibly tired crew routines. Or, you know, stop spending so much money on advertising and ‘special features’, remove all service (people can survive two hours without a stale sandwich), and do what you set out to do in the first place, provide low cost flights.