By Ebi Kesiena
Airfares for flights connecting Zimbabwe and South Africa have experienced a significant surge, particularly on the Harare-Johannesburg and Bulawayo-Johannesburg routes, during the festive season encompassing Christmas and New Year holidays.
Some airlines are now demanding an exorbitant US$1,003 for a return trip from the capital to Johannesburg, a journey lasting merely one hour and 30 minutes.
Single-way journeys on this route are reaching as high as US$570, an excessively steep price that has disrupted the holiday plans and gatherings of families and friends.
Airlink, Fastjet, South African Airways, and Safair are the current operators on these bustling routes, while Air Zimbabwe and British Airways (Comair) are no longer operational. The standard fare for a flight between Harare and Johannesburg, typically priced at around US$350 for the brief duration, has doubled or even tripled in some instances.
These escalated fares now rival or surpass the cost of a round-trip ticket from Harare to Dubai. For comparison, a flight from Harare to Dubai with Kenya Airways is priced at US$766, Ethiopian Airways at US$867, and Emirates at US$1,004.
The prevailing circumstances are proving challenging for travelers looking to fulfill their holiday plans or undertake other journeys. The volatile and high prices are attributed to a persistent lack of competition and unreasonable airport charges, fees, and levies.
The cost of travel within Africa has been a topic of extensive discussion, with experts in hospitality, tourism, and airline management contending that it hampers the vast potential of the African tourism industry.
However, Rodger Foster CEO of Airlink, cites valid reasons for the elevated costs, including taxes, statutory charges, high jet fuel expenses, airport taxes, air navigation, weather services, and ground handling fees across many African countries.