Football Fans From Europe Scramble For flights to SA

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is now almost a purely European affair. In the semi-finals, Germany will play Spain on Wednesday, while the Netherlands and Uruguay battle it out on Tuesday.

The interest in flights has increased and KLM is doing its utmost to accommodate the augmented demand, said KLM press officer Saskia Kranendonk.

“We have chartered bigger aircraft for the regular flights the last few weeks and we also offered our passengers trips via Paris in corporation with Air France.

“For the upcoming semi-final tomorrow [Tuesday] we have scheduled an extra flight, like we did for the quarter final of last Friday. The extra flight for the match tomorrow left fully booked this morning.”
KLM will look into extra capacity, but will not schedule extra flights before knowing whether the Dutch team will be in the finals.
Lufthansa may also add extra flights if Germany reach the finals, said Axel Simon, southern Africa director for Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines.

Earlier, Lufthansa reported that almost all flights to South Africa were sold out.

German tour operators have also experienced an “enormous” demand for tickets to the World Cup, and are considering chartering flights, the German media reported.

Negative reporting about crime in South Africa and its ability to host the tournament have scared off European visitors.

Since the start of the tournament press coverage has 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”.

Post-Van Riebeeck conquest

Dutch wire service Algemeen Nederland Persbureau and television network RTL reported that the Dutch fan club Oranje has not received a single complaint about crime since the start of the World Cup.

Travel companies in the Netherlands have reportedly had to employ people at the weekend to man telephone lines to cope with the demand from prospective travellers. Tickets for the Dutch game against Uruguay on Tuesday sold out within a couple of hours.

Should the Dutch team progress to the finals, the Dutch travel company Oad Reizen plans to book five to 10 extra flights so that 2 000 Dutch fans can attend the match, according to media reports.

This may, however, not be enough since the company has already received enquiries from 10 000 fans.

An Oad spokesperson told Dutch newspaper BN/De Stem that it may run into problems if 20 000 supporters want to travel to SA, as the group can’t book 50 planes at a time.

Estimates about the number of visiting Dutch fans in South Africa vary. Some reports in the Netherlands say there are 25 000 in the country, while others put the number closer to 5 000.

“Some Dutch fans in the country are flying in their girlfriends and wives for the semis and eventual final, to share with them the great time they are experiencing in SA during the tournament, ” said Klaas Deknatel, chief editor of online publication Zuid-Afrika Journaal.

He expects Dutch fans may also choose flight routes through Germany, England and Dubai.

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad said: “358 years after Jan van Riebeeck, the Netherlands is launching another conquest in South Africa.”

However, Deknatel had higher expectations amid Dutch euphoria after the win against Brazil. “Overall it is a bit disappointing, I expected more flights for the semi’s,” he said.