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BA charges £1,800 for seats to Cape Town as rival teeters on brink of collapse

Airfares to South Africa are likely to rise significantly if, as expected, South African Airways (SAA) collapses.

The cash-strapped airline, which has suspended all commercial passenger flights, is reported to be on brink of bankruptcy. It has started laying off all of its 5,000 workers after the government refused to provide funding to keep it going.

If SAA goes out of business, that will leave British Airways as the only airline offering non-stop flights between London and Cape Town until Virgin Atlantic launches its new service, which is due to start on October 25.

At the moment, BA’s cheapest seat on September 1 is £1,800, for flights booked directly through its website, although it is still possible to find seats for less than £500 with airlines offering one-stop services, such as Emirates.

Virgin Atlantic, which is also asking for government funding due to the forced grounding of flights during the coronavirus pandemic, is advertising flights to Cape Town for less than £700 from November.

Virgin Atlantic already competes with BA on flights between London and Johannesburg, where fares in September start from around £500.

South African Airways has been losing money for almost 10 years and, since the government refused further financing, it is understood to be having ongoing talks with staff unions about winding down its operations.

Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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