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Virgin will mop up on Lagos route, says agent

Posted by By Audrey d' Angelo on 2005/10/19 | Views: 421 |

Virgin will mop up on Lagos route, says agent


Nigeria was "the biggest airline market in Africa by far" and with SAA limited to three flights a week between Johannesburg and Lagos there was a serious shortage of capacity on the route, Thulani Nzima, the new chief executive of the SA Travel Centre, said yesterday.

Cape Town - Nigeria was "the biggest airline market in Africa by far" and with SAA limited to three flights a week between Johannesburg and Lagos there was a serious shortage of capacity on the route, Thulani Nzima, the new chief executive of the SA Travel Centre, said yesterday.

SAA had so far been unsuccessful in obtaining air traffic rights for daily flights although negotiations were continuing.

He said this meant that when Virgin Nigeria - the new national airline in which Virgin Atlantic Airways has a stake - started flying the route next month it would benefit from the demand. "The new entrant will simply mop up."

SA Travel Centre is a chain of franchised travel agencies wholly owned by SAA with a turnover of R2 billion a year. It has agents in every country in Africa to which SAA flies, to help build its market share in every destination.

Its agents also sell tickets for competing airlines. Although it had not had any communication with Virgin Nigeria, Nzima said it would book seats on those flights if it was in the client's interest.

"We do recommend SAA first, providing it with what the client wants, but we always look after the best interest of the client."

It had a relationship with Emirates, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) airline, on some routes, such as to the UK. It was also about to have a meeting with Qatar Airways, another UAE airline, to enter that country.

Nzima said SAA's decision to stop paying agents a 7 percent commission on ticket sales had not proved a disaster as had been feared. An increasing number of people were in any case booking domestic flights directly online.

Will Puk, the chief executive of the Sure Travel chain of franchised travel agents, and Wally Gaynor, the chief executive of the Club Travel chain, who are discussing a combined operation to cut rising costs, agreed that the loss of the commission had not been disastrous.

Sure agents have an estimated 22 percent of the travel market and Club, with a reputation of getting value for money, has 3 percent.
A statement yesterday said the two were not considering a complete merger but combining some head office functions.

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