The Best Budget Airline In SA

This review comes a long time after the fact but it’s a story that deserves telling even late.

Last July my wife and I flew to Johannesburg partly for business and partly for pleasure and we flew on Kulula Airlines. This wasn’t our first flight with Kulula and I can assure you it won’t be our last.

Kulula is a small, South African based, no frills, budget airline that began operating in August 2001 with one aircraft and has since expanded to eight, all 737-800’s. They cover all the main routes in South Africa and a few destinations in neighboring countries, as well as Mauritius and the best part is the price.

If you plan ahead you can usually buy tickets at less than half the rate of the nationally subsidized carrier, South African Airways, and if you get caught organizing last minute bookings they still offer reasonable prices, if seats are available.

Like most budget airlines, snacks are not free but are reasonably priced and (surprise!) tasty. They even offer snacks from Woolies which for international readers means high quality.

What makes them different to the bigger competitors and even other budget rivals is their sense of humor. The usually boring pre-flight, in-flight and post flight announcements are well seasoned with humor. They even add humor to their online and call-in services. Their primary color, lime green, isn’t my favorite but they run on time, usually – a big plus, and always provide a laugh. Granted the humor is scripted but every now and then a flight attendant comes up with an unscripted quip to get everyone giggling. They are professional but entertainingly so.

As you can see from this photo, humor is incorporated in the exterior design as well.

But, back to my story. On our July trip we had an experience that sold me on Kulua for a long time to come.

As you know, security these days is tight and that was a problem for me on this particular trip. I usually carry a couple of small knives on my key ring, mostly because I think they are neat, but also because the pliers, scissors, screw drivers and files really come in handy occasionally.

The trouble is, what was once considered harmless, is now viewed as a serious threat to safe air travel. I understand this and accept the rule without question but agreeing with the rule and remembering to pack my toys in the checked luggage are two different matters and on this trip, I forgot to pack them away.

My knives were discovered at security and I was asked to leave them behind. I actually had two options, one of which was to give them away. The security guy looked interested but I wasn’t happy about that. The knives were small but expensive. One was a Leatherman the other Swiss Army.

My second option was to go back to the check in counter and see if there was some way to get my knives safely back home still in my possession. It was a long shot. Time was short and I had no idea what could be done but I was desperate.

Fortunately, they were still checking in passengers for my flight so I asked one lady very nicely if I could put the knives in her suitcase. The expression on her face said, “terrorist, run!!!” For fear of getting arrested I didn’t push.

There weren’t too many other customers so I approached two Kulula workers at the check in desk and explained my dilemma, begging for help. I told them that buying an additional piece of luggage was out of the question. The savings on one hand would be cancelled by the expenditure on the other.

To my surprise, one of the gentlemen produced a small cardboard box, a little bigger than a sleeve of three golf balls and about the same shape. It didn’t look very substantial and I was dubious but what could I do. I handed over my knives.

They dropped my knives in the box, taped it up and draped it with a luggage tag. Believe me, it looked silly moving away on the conveyor belt. It could easily be crushed and when shaken made a sound like a maraca with a flat tire. I figured the box would either be mangled and the knives lost on route or some unscrupulous soul would take advantage of a good opportunity.

I almost waved good-by. I honestly didn’t think I would ever see those knives again but the Kulula guys were confident.

Well, you won’t believe it! When we got to Durban, that little box was surrounded by mountains of baggage but unmarked, unbent and untouched. And who do you think gets the credit? Kulula!

I have to believe the baggage handling personnel were extra careful with my fragile package and the check in clerks went beyond the mandatory requirements of the job. They saved me money and renewed my confidence in customer service.

Unfortunately, I failed to get the names of the workers at the check in counter, but kudos to Kulula and all their thoughtful personnel! Keep up the good work.

In the future we will always try Kulula first and I recommend you do the same. For travelers planning to visit South Africa don’t hesitate to organize your in country flights online with Kulua.

You can also call them on 0861 585852 from within South Africa or +27 (11) 921-0111 from outside South Africa.

If you wish to fly inexpensively yet confidently in the hands of reliable professionals, look to kulula. It’s more than a flight. It’s an experience.

Whatever your experiences with Kulula, good or bad, share them in the comments. Tell us what you THINK!AboutIt!


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