Fly in South Africa – and pay by the minute

An upstart airline in South Africa is working hard to find somewhere to rent their planes and clear regulatory hurdles for their planned routes. Of course, upstart airlines are nothing new, they appear (and disappear) every month.

Airtime Airlines is different though, and grabbed our attention thanks to an innovative new pricing method.

The airline has taken a cue from the mobile phone industry, and plans to sell prepaid flight time, where passengers pay by the minute.

Basically, passengers will buy “air time” in advance. Flight time will cost 5 Rand per minute (about 53 cents) and the airline is quick to point out that the predetermined flight time is what you pay, regardless of any delays on the ground.

Of course, with just 3 routes (Durban to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth), the entire scheme sounds too wacky to succeed. If the whole prepaid plan doesn’t sound complicated enough, they are making things even harder by implementing fluctuating “top off rates”. The current rate of 5 Rand per minute could go up and down, depending on promotions and a host of other factors.

At the end of the day, the whole thing will result in fluctuating airfares, just like on every other airline in the world.

Still, upstart airlines are what shake up the industry, and we really need innovations like this to remind the legacy carriers that they are not going to get away with poor service and bad airfares forever.

(Airtime Airlines, via Wired)