The domestic flight market within South Africa is big business and there is much home-grown airline talent who will try to entice the moths out of your wallet with their services to and from the major (and some not so major) hubs across the country. A couple of these carriers are sea dogs of the game so to speak – the likes of British Airways (formerly Comair) and the various guises of SAA, whether it be Express or Airlink. They get the job done, with a meal included.
New kids on the block are the low-cost carriers consisting of 1Time, Mango, Velvet Sky and my personal favourite budget airline Kulula.com (said with much background fanfare). The marketing genius of this airline alone should be enough to put bums on seats (more on this shortly). In fact, I used Kulula just this morning on a business trip between Lanseria and Durban, which prompted me to write a post about my airline experience.
When rolling oneself out of bed at 4am to get to the airport in time to catch the first flight of the day, it takes considerable effort to coax a smile to my face, especially considering how full Lanseria’s parking lot was at 5am. People – get a life! This is not to say that I can’t be pleasant to others before the sun has poked itself above the horizon, but for those of you who believe the myth that it takes less facial muscles to smile than not, this only ever works past 8am.
I rock up to Lanseria in my Navara, remove the toothpicks holding my eyelids in place and don my Jansport backpack complete with mandatory business laptop, paper pad and pen (the latter two for the in-meeting doodles) and set off on the distance equivalent of a Pole-to-Pole trek to the terminal building. I’ve got a booking reference number and make use of Kalula’s self check-in facility owing to the fact that my brain failed to compute when it came to processing the number of people stood in the non-self-service check-in line. Why would you put yourself through this torment?! The self-service machine won’t try to pull a hungry-hippo style move in an attempt to remove your hand when you reach for your ticket. In retrospect however, best stay in the line if you’re one of those queue-lovers. It makes my life a whole lot easier!
After passing through the security scanner, with the guy in the line behind me so close that I was afraid he might reach out and grasp my tight buns at any moment, the beeper sounded. Security Guy asks me to step forward and adopt the mandatory “spread ‘em and let me feel between your thighs” position. I motion to the guy stood over my shoulder and utter the words “it was him” before making a quick break for the departure lounge. Bum bandit: 0; Me: 1 – that’ll teach him to invade my personal airspace! I grunt at my work colleague who I meet airside and we sit and wait for our flight to board.
It’s been almost a year since I last flew Kulula which, incidentally for your 30-Seconds factoid of the day is a name derived from the Zulu word for ‘easily’. ‘Easily does it?’….very delicious English! Our flight boarded and I took my seat, making a mental note to read the in-flight magazine Khuluma, (Zulu for talk) when we’d taken off. The Kulula flight’s ‘Supa-crew’ were introduced to their clientele by ‘The Boss’, a self-proclaimed ‘hot-chocolate’ coloured hostess. If you’ve never flown the airline before, the usual dreary (but compulsory) safety announcements are turned into something more light-hearted, as The Boss launches into her well-rehearsed comedic safety repertoire, e.g. ‘ fasten that seatbelt around those gorgeous hips’ and ‘please put on our one-size-fits-all life-jackets should you happen to notice a dolphin outside your window’. The latter had me cracking a smile. Top of my Kulula hall-of-fame announcements list is a reference to the life-jacket’s light which, in true Kulula fashion is there to “shine in the sharkies’ eyes” should your plane care to take a quick dip in the ocean. Imagine the announcement being made in a Capey accent and you’re halfway to imagining how I laughed upon hearing this for the first time.
Did I mention that they sell Woolies sandwiches and snacks on-board? Mmmmmm.
Now back to the Khuluma mag! Every month the in-flight magazine features a guest comedian editor. Sheer journalistic brilliance I’m telling you. This month’s comedian was tasked with interviewing Oscar Pistorius, South Africa’s ‘Blade Runner’ paralympion. From start to end, I couldn’t help but chuckle as the guy asked Oscar a multitude of tangential questions, ranging from the use of disabled parking spots, to shoe shopping and his views on the outcome of a sprint between the Blade Runner and Cool Runnings (Usain Bolt).
As the flight disembarked, The Boss reminded everyone to collect all their personal belongings and check in their neighbour’s bags for any ‘goodies’ which they might like to have. You are also reminded not to leave behind any spouses, children and in-laws as the crew are busy trying to get rid of their own, however they will gladly accept anything shiny, valuables and the guy sat in seat number 13F. I walked off the plane, the corners of my mouth doing their best to defy the early morning Durban gravity.
My return flight to Jo’burg was a little less amusing with the first officer suffering from an itchy nose on take-off, rotating so fast that most passengers received a firsthand dose of fighter pilot intensity G-force. A few people let out a few nervous laughs as the captain assured us over the PA system that his first officer would make a first-class landing at Lanseria. I was a little sceptical and the co-pilot didn’t disappoint. As we lined up on the approach, the plane was twitching like a flea-invested pavement special. A casual observer might think that Gold Reef City had inherited a new rollercoaster. We touched down fast and heavy with the plane close to the opposite runway’s aiming point markers by the time it had sufficiently slowed and everyone had stopped holding their breath. I could smell a faint whiff of poo inside of the cabin, however didn’t know if this was from the relieved passengers with loose sphincters, or the ‘kak in die broek’ incident which had just taken place inside the cockpit. More practice required sonny!
The marketing team behind Kulula, at times sails close to the wind with their fun-loving advertising. They landed themselves in hot water with FIFA over their World Cup unofficial carrier of the ‘you-know-what’ campaign and follow-up posters. Nadine Damen (Kulula’s marketing manager) also sent a letter to Prince William asking him where he would he would like Kate’s Labola cows sent. To their credit, St James’ Palace actually sent a response letter to Nadine.
Kulula’s aircraft fleet forms part of the company’s choice and out-the-box advertising; from their ‘Flying 101’ and ‘This Way Up’ plane liveries, to aircraft which sport moustaches during the month of ‘Mo-vember’. Kulula billboard adverts are equally as good, in particular the ‘Staring Contest’ ad, where the girl reminds me a little of a work colleague’s daughter. One of their commercials is a take on a scene out of Top Gun (a personal movie favourite)…absolutely hilarious!!; and their plans to build a base on Mars are ‘progressing smoothly’, as per the latest announcements on their Facebook page.