Ed’s note

I was quite surprised to attend the launch of two new international airline routes into Johannesburg within five days of each other. Coincidence? Well, a happy one if you’re a Spanish-speaking South African or a resident of the country who speaks the language and has ties with either Spain or South America. That’s because LATAM and Iberia are the airlines in question, with the former launching flights between Sao Paulo and Johannesburg in October, and Iberia having just re-launched the Madrid service it discontinued in 2012 when the skids were put on the Spanish economy. It may well be that it just happened that the two airlines managed to pick dates within a few days of each other to make a bit of a noise in the South African market, but I did have a chuckle when I considered the fact that South African residents had gone from little or no direct access to much of the Spanish-speaking world, to suddenly spoilt for choice! It’s obviously encouraging for South Africa that despite the expensive landing fees at O.R. Tambo International Airport, some of the world’s more prominent airlines want a presence in this market. It also further enhances ORTIA’s status as an African hub of choice, despite the likes of Murtala Muhammed International in Lagos or Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi offering more geographically central locations to the rest of the world. The Iberia re-launch also opens up southern Europe to South African residents who previously had to connect via the likes of France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK – something that will no doubt please Johannesburg’s large Portuguese community! The LATAM launch is significant for the fact that much was made of SAA’s decision to discontinue its Buenos Aires route a couple of years ago, leaving it with only Sao Paulo in terms of South American destinations. The two airlines will now go head to head on this route, with LATAM enjoying the benefit of offering its customers connections to a host of other South American destinations, including Buenos Aires. Both airlines are also hoping to attract their share of non-South African African traffic, and it’s going to be interesting to see if they are successful in this space. Either way, the launch of both the LATAM and Iberia routes makes for interesting reading in the African airline space, and more importantly, the customer should be the winner, with increased competition and variety. Time to dust off that Spanish-English dictionary and get travelling.