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The cheapest and most expensive times to fly to Cape Town and Durban

The cheapest time to fly from Joburg to Cape Town is at 05h00 on Sunday mornings, and the most expensive is at 16h00 on Friday afternoons.

Coming back, the most affordable flight from Cape Town to Joburg is at 21h00 on Wednesday evenings, and the priciest is at 12h00 on Sunday afternoons.

Meanwhile, if you’re travelling from Joburg to Durban, the cheapest rates are available at 06h00 on Sunday, and the most expensive are at 13h00 on Friday.

From Durban back to Joburg, you will be paying the least by flying at 21h00 on Wednesday, and the most at 16h00 on Sunday.

These helpful travelling tips were revealed in Discovery Bank’s latest SpendTrend24 report, which recorded the actual prices that the bank’s customers paid for flight tickets between 1 January and 31 December 2023.

The right day to fly

Flight prices on main routes such as Joburg to Cape Town are mainly affected by demand, as such, travellers often have to pay more to fly during peak times than off-peak times.

With this in mind, Discovery has dissected its data to determine the days on which it is the cheapest and most expensive to fly to the country’s favourite tourist and business destinations:

Route Cheapest day Most expensive day Average difference
Johannesburg to Cape Town Tuesday Friday +32%
Cape Town to Johannesburg Saturday Sunday +32%
Johannesburg to Durban Tuesday Friday +45%
Durban to Johannesburg Wednesday Sunday +35%
Johannesburg to George Monday Friday +28%
George to Johannesburg Wednesday Sunday +27%
Cape Town to Durban Wednesday Sunday +20%
Durban to Cape Town Tuesday Friday +18%

South Africans’ favourite destinations

In 2023, the top location for local travellers was South Africa’s so-called “Golden Triangle” – Cape Town, Joburg, and Durban.

Around 33% of all domestic flight tickets purchased by Discovery clients were to Cape Town, though this is a decrease of 1% in comparison to 2022.

Joburg accounted for 31% of all flights, a drop of 2%, whereas Durban represented 19% while registering a 0% change in demand compared to the previous year.

The financial institution said it has also seen a trend of citizens moving from inland areas to cities along the East Coast’s Garden Route.

Consequently, towns such as George, Gqeberha, and East London experienced an uptick in tourists last year, securing 6%, 5%, and 2% of all flight tickets, respectively.

On an international scale, the United Kingdom received the biggest portion of South African travellers out of any region in 2023, accounting for 23% of all flights.

Not even close, Mauritius was in second place at 7%, and France in third at 6%.

The latter two countries also saw the biggest increases in incoming visitors at 2% and 3%, respectively, which Discovery Bank attributes to an increased supply of flights to Mauritius and the Rugby World Cup hosted in France.

According to the finance provider, these were the main global destinations for domestic flyers in 2023:

Location Share in tickets purchased Change
United Kingdom 23% -4%
Mauritius 7% +2%
France 6% +3%
Italy 5% +1%
USA 5% -1%
Australia 5% -2%
UAE 4% -3%
Portugal 3% 0%
Namibia 2% +1%
Germany 2% 0%
Switzerland 2% 0%
Turkey 2% -1%
Zimbabwe 2% -1%
New Zealand 1% 0%
India 1% -1%
Brazil 0.1% 0%

Ticket prices – 2022 vs 2023

Flight ticket prices stabilised and even decreased in 2023 in comparison to the preceding year, following notable increases since 2019 as lockdown restrictions around the world were toned down.

However, there were price hikes on many international routes in 2023 due to rising demand.

The average cost of one-way domestic flights in 2023 versus 2022, as provided by Discovery Bank, were as follows:

Route One-way ticket in 2022 One-way ticket in 2023 Change
Johannesburg to Cape Town R1,720 R1,700 -1%
Johannesburg to Durban R1,090 R1,040 -5%
Cape Town to Durban R1,770 R1,810 +2%
Cape Town to George R1,780 R1,720 -3%
George to Johannesburg R1,580 R1,760 +11%

The average cost of return international flights in 2023 versus 2022, as provided by Discovery Bank, were as follows:

Route Return ticket in 2022 Return ticket in 2023 Change
South Africa to UK R16,340 R20,510 +26%
South Africa to Mauritius R6,390 R10,840 +70%
South Africa to UAE R13,980 R16,660 +19%
South Africa to Australia R26,200 R32,190 +23%

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