German fans face flight shortage
Johannesburg – Demand for German flight tickets to South Africa is "enormous" following the national team's trouncing of England at the weekend.
The majority of Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt to Johannesburg in June and July have reached their capacity in economy class, said Axel Simon, southern Africa director for Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines.
There are seats available in the airline's premium class as well as business and first class, and some economy class seats may still be found on a couple of dates.
"As Lufthansa follows the principles of supply and demand no special fares in economy are currently on offer," said Simon.
Lufthansa operates a daily non-stop schedule between Frankfurt and Johannesburg.
Two German tour operators, Dertour in Frankfurt and Passion SA in Darmstadt, have experienced an "enormous" demand for tickets to the World Cup, the German media has reported.
Dertour will charter flights to South Africa if Germany reach the finals. Passion SA is currently selling packages, including tournament tickets, for €1 600 per person. A spokesperson for the company said there has been immense pick-up in demand over the past three weeks, but that there are not enough flights available.
The previous hosts of the World Cup have not been wildly enthusiastic about SA's ability to stage the tournament.
German visitor numbers – there are believed to be only 10 000 German tourists in the country – have been depressed by negative reporting, particularly of remarks by German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer in the run-up to the tournament.
He was highly critical about South Africa's "big African problems" and its competence to host the World Cup.
At the start of the year Beckenbauer, who was president of Germany 2006's World Cup organising committee, said Germans would not come to South Africa because of security fears and expensive tickets.
Beckenbauer's comments did a lot of damage and his more positive tone since landing in South Africa should help convince Germans to come, said Brett Dungan, CEO of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa).
Germany's Development Cooperation Minister Dirk Niebel has proclaimed the tournament "well organised".
Press coverage of South Africa has also improved, with the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporting that "contrary to all expectations, the South African World Cup is a normal football tournament".
Dungan believes Germany will be the key to a possible new wave of tourists in July.
This will depend on Germany's performance on the field, though. While the team impressed with its crushing 4-1 defeat of England, it faces Argentina on Saturday in what some commentators have described as an "early World Cup final". Argentina is unbeaten so far in the tournament.