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The Cheapest Airline in South Africa - revealed

Other than those with second homes on Clifton beach, the single most important thing to airline passenger is to book cheap flights. So we had a look at flight price statistics over the last year (as a company run by 2 statisticians, we can't help but keep track of these things :) Our results indicate that Mango Airlines offers the cheapest flights 68% of the time. If flight prices are too expensive for you then try Shosholoza Meyl trains, most of the time they're cheaper than the intercity buses.

Mango cheapest 68% of the time

Mango were most dominant on the CPT-DUR flight route, offering the cheapest flights 94% of the time. On the JHB-CPT and JHB - DUR routes, Mango was cheapest 56% of the time.

  • Cape Town - Durban flights : Mango Airlines were cheapest 16 out of the 17 times we looked. We looked at cheapest flight prices on Fridays from 13h44 to 20h31 (the times we think most people would want to fly), and a lot of the time Kulula wan't offering flights during these peak periods. There is only one Kulula flight on Fridays from CPT to DUR, and it is scheduled to leave at 10h35. On the return leg it leaves Durban at 13h10. This compares to the 6 flights which Mango flies a day from CT to King Shaka.

  • Johannesburg - Cape Town : Mango Airlines were cheapest 10 out of the 18 times we looked. Flights between Lanseria & Cape Town were usually cheaper than flights between OR Tambo and Cape Town.

  • Johannesburg - Durban : Mango Airlines were cheapest 10 out of the 18 times we checked. As Mango don't fly between Lanseria and Durban, most of the time flights between OR Tambo and Durban were cheaper.

Mango Airlines plane parked at Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg

Shosholoza Meyl Cheapest Overland

The Shosholoza Meyl economy class train is the king of cheap when it comes to overland trips. On the Johannesburg - Durban and Johannesburg - Cape Town routes; Shosholoza Meyl economy class was always cheaper than taking a bus. On the Durban - Cape Town route they were often cheaper as well, which is astonishing considering that there is no direct route and they have to go via Johannesburg.

Out of intercity buses, City to City buses are usually cheapest

City to City is the sister bus company to Translux, which offers a slightly more basic and cheaper service.

  • Cape Town - Durban : Citiliner cheapest 13 out of 17 time.

  • Johannesburg - Cape Town : City to City were cheapest 16 out of 18 times.

  • Johannesburg - Durban : City to City were cheapet 17 out of 18 time.

City to City Express bus

Check all airline to get the cheapest flight

Whilst Mango Airlines was most often the cheapest in our surveys, there have been plenty of occasions where Kulula was cheapest, and even full service carriers like British Airways have on occasion offered the cheapest fares (talk about both having your cake and eating it).

Feedback from Travel Industry

I sourced some feedback from industry experts:

Dawn Jorgenson, a travel writer/photographer, says that securing cheap flights is "almost always related to lead in times with South African airlines. That and scheduling. Which means that for cheap flights, Friday and Sundays evenings are impossible as airlines charge what they will. The same seems to apply to routes with limited service i.e. Cape Town to Hoedspruit and Cape Town to Nelspruit, where prices are exorbitant. Not an easy thing for tourists who often have no choice but to pay. I would love to see other airlines servicing these routes. Personally I mostly use as with a bit of flexibility in my schedule I find very good deals. Specifically on the Cape Town - Lanseria route. But also to other destinations. It is always my first point of call and I support the no-frills approach that they adopt. Hoping that they will never be as extreme as Ryan Air. Not quite related but a comment either way: One point I always make with Kulula is that they should live up to their 'Green' branding and replace the styrofoam cups onboard with recycled card ones. And stock rooibos tea - for their South Africa clients. Once that is done I won't have to look further for affordable feel good flights. I will mention too that SAAirlink are a gift to the business and leisure traveller with the routes that they offer. Mostly reasonably priced."

Here's some tips from traveler & cartographer, Di Brown (if you need a map made she's your go-to person): "I have had ridiculously low prices from Kulula when booking online, particularly if well in advance. E.g. in 2012 I booked Cape Town to Durban return for 2 adults, R1500 in total. Booked in January, to fly in May. They don’t seem to be as cheap these days, however, their sales can still offer great prices if you can be a little flexible on dates. You must be on their mailing list to be notified of sales. Be prepared to be online at 6am for the start and you will pick up some very sweet prices."

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