The Gulf region’s airlines are moving into South Africa. As some European carriers either scrap or scale back their flights there, the likes of Emirates, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways and Etihad are stepping in to fill the void.
It’s a sobering thought that Emirates now links Dubai with Johannesburg twice a day, the same frequency you would find with British Airways out of Heathrow. Equally Qatar Airways now flies once daily from Doha to Johannesburg which is as often as Lufthansa does from Frankfurt.
Flying between Europe and South Africa means a lengthly side trip, but the routing makes sense because of keen business and first class prices and the ability to break your journey in that region should you wish to do so.
The savings are substantial. Anyone needing to book a London-Johannesburg business class return with British Airways next week would pay upwards of £3,375 with first class priced at £5,997. By contrast, travel agent Trailfinders can sell return business class flights with Emirates for £1,722 in business and £2,486 in first class.
Not all the Gulf carriers can quote through first class fares (because they may not offer first class on the Gulf to South Africa sector) but Trailfinders quotes return business class fares with Etihad (via Abu Dhabi) of just £1,131. It also has a business class companion fare offer (two persons must travel together) of £1,299 with Qatar Airways.
So far all the Gulf carriers, with the sole exception of Qatar Airways, serve only Johannesburg. But Qatar also operates to Cape Town at similar fares to those it charges on the London-Doha-Johannesburg route.
But the Gulf airlines aren’t interested solely in the European market. Glance at a map and you’ll see the region plays the role of a gateway for the Middle East, Russia, India and the whole of Asia. So if you were flying to Shanghai, Emirates will take you there as efficiently as SIA could via Singapore. Likewise if bound for Delhi, you will find Qatar offers faster connections via Doha than Air India does over Mumbai.