When Fly Blue Crane took flight earlier this year, the company aimed to “bring humanity back to air travel, with a fresh approach.” The team started by ordering a bunch of Embraer Regional Jets 145 (ERJ145) aircraft, filling them with comfy leather seats (and enough legroom), serving light meals and snacks. Part of this exercise in “humanity” involved keeping ticket prices affordable for everyone and catering for routes that the major players have neglected; Bloemfontein, and Kimberly. Fast-forward 2 months later, and the airline is bringing this fresh approach to air travel with the introduction of a Cape Town route.
Until now, air travel wasn’t accessible to everyone. Maybe you’ve been lucky to sit in an economy or premium cabin because your employer can afford the trip, or you’ve finally managed to save enough for that holiday flying with that fruity airline.
A few weeks ago I had my first Fly Blue Crane experience, and it wasn’t easy. I – like many South Africans – don’t adjust easily to changes, must be our brand loyalty nature. I boarded and sat down into seat 9C – window seat – greeted by rather friendly attendants Lebohang and Lebogang. Lets just call them Lebo. Though I expected to walk into a rather dated air freshener-scented cabin (admittedly that’d be a bit tacky), I was immediately assigned to my seat and, never doubting Bloemfontein’s scorching summer weather, I was offered the airline’s signature prepared water with honey-infused limeade and fresh mint. Lebohang then went on to explain how to use my seat and emergency exit door – could she know I am the writer flying with them today? Lebo told me all about the seating options until I was totally comfortable.
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Once we took off, I needed to get right to work but there wasn’t any plug point to plug my laptop or USB port for my phone. Affordability Papi, of course there wouldn’t be any luxuries here I later reminded myself. The flight was 45-minutes anyway, my power could last for next 2 hours – or so. Once the seat belt light went off, Lebo explained the meals offered on the flight. The breakfast entrees were served and, surprisingly, are conceived by Sandton’s Open Food caterers , famous for their numeral food hubs found across the country. I overindulged at the airports business lounge so I opted for their layered muesli, yoghurt and mango cup, followed by their selection of breakfast pastries, fresh juice and another serving of that infamous signature water.
If I had been itching for some of their classic snacks, Lebo was kind enough to offer plenty of snacks and non-alcoholic (it was before 12pm) beverages for passengers to take whenever they felt peckish. 40 minutes into the flight and we’re told we have circle over Johannesburg as traffic seems to be heavy, another dose of the signature water and amazing Jozi views were in order.
I did a quick search for flights between Bloemfontein (BFN) and Johannesburg (JFK) and found Fly Blue service to cost way less than half that of the state owned flyer or on other airlines. Now of course, flight timing and frequency matter quite a bit. On the way out, I was handed a small box of pastries to take home as well. Because, Lebo insisted. I saved that to enjoy with some vanilla ice cream later that weekend.
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While this new service offering is really aimed at savvy young and travel hungry individuals, entrepreneurs and business travelers bouncing among Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Kimberly, it’s accessible enough for a lot more people to give it a try. And knowing the airline business like I do (I worked for one in a past life), pricing is king and I could see Fly Blue changing how other airlines approach the cost of somewhat premium travel.
*Fly Blue Crane is travel partner to Papi Mabele. In no way is this article sponsored by the airline. Wording is from authors first hand experience..