Many local and international soccer lovers are making their own plans for the World Cup. They are organising their own accommodation and flights – turning their back on Fifa’s hospitality provider, Match.
In recent months Match has been forced to release thousands of beds at hotels and B&Bs, tens of thousands of local plane tickets, as well as luxury accommodation at one of the country’s biggest attractions, the Kruger National Park.
Match insists it was legally and contractually obliged to release the inventory but admits it might have had to release more than it would have liked to due to slower than expected sales. In December, Match released a first batch of 9 000 room nights back to Sanparks.
Sanparks then negotiated the second release of the 14 731 unsold room nights earlier this year. And in one day it sold two-thirds of its own inventory through its website. This week, SA Airways was forced to cancel its contract with Match after talks between the two companies broke down over the number of seats Match wanted to book from SAA for the World Cup. Now Match has been forced to turn to an “undisclosed carrier” with whom it has already contracted.
Match had booked 45 000 return seats from SAA but reduced the total to only 1 000. This has forced SAA to release 44 000 seats into the market, resulting in a further substantial drop in airfares during the World Cup period. The tickets, for peak times before and after matches, will now be released at lower prices to local buyers. Speaking to the media for the first time about the SAA debacle, Match spokeswoman Vivienne Bervoets said discussions had been held between SAA and Match for a significant number of seats, as these were intended to meet most of Match’s requirements for domestic flights.
She added that the seats released by Match were for domestic flights and that Match had never been involved in the procurement of seats on international flights. SAA had also said earlier this year that its partnership with Match was crucial in order to operate an around-the-clock domestic schedule during the tournament.
The airline’s spokeswoman, Vimla Maistry, said it was no longer viable for SAA to continue with the deal and they would now be very pleased to offer customers these tickets at reduced rates. Later, she said SAA was still in discussions with Match regarding “the wet lease fleet, and we cannot release any additional information at this stage”. When asked to elaborate, Maistry was not available for comment. Meanwhile, Ian Cruickshank, SAA’s 2010 project leader, said they had done their utmost to assist Match, but to no avail.
“We cannot hold our tickets stock indefinitely while seat numbers keep changing. We would much rather make these tickets available to our own loyal customers,” said Cruickshank. Commenting on the thousands of room nights released by Match in recent months, Bervoets said that although the release of rooms was permanent, if sales spiked, Match would go back to the establishments it was previously contracted to for help.
“If we do require additional rooms, we will ask the property if they wish to give them to us under the terms originally signed, and it is up to them if they want to do this or not,” said Bervoets. Responding to the story about SAA’s woes with Match, users of www.iol.com labelled the hospitality provider as incompetent. One user wrote: “Match was set up just to play ‘middleman’ as a BEE rip-off of the ordinary citizen who wanted tickets and accommodation.
Well the backlash is here as they are completely incompetent and we will soon see if the much heralded Fifa booking system will result in last minute mass ticket giveaways to SA soccer supporters just to keep the stadiums from looking empty.”
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