THE ADVENTURE STARTS HERE
No stale, clinical, grey airport waiting areas. No crowded aisles, being bumped by other passenger’s carry-on luggage and airline staff giving you the generic greeting. Welcome instead to a journey tailor made for pleasure, comfort and clear skies ahead.
From start to finish, flying with Federal Air is a singular experience that has been customised to create the perfect start to the holiday experience with every stage of the journey merging seamlessly with the next. It begins with their complimentary meet and greet service. After checking in – and allowing friendly porters to take care of all that heavy luggage – first time passengers with Federal Air have no idea that their safari adventure beings the moment they step through the lounge doors.
Styled and landscaped to mimic a luxury lodge, the Federal Air guest lounge creates the perfect start-of-vacation ambience. Complimentary drinks and snacks, even more friendly smiles and full red carpet treatment keep you company until you walk onto your shuttle aircraft, ready to be flown out to the crème de la crème of South Africa’s private lodges.
“We really do feel as though we are part of the client’s adventure,” says Nik Lloyd-Roberts, spokesperson for Federal Air. “Being a break away from a scheduled carrier who operates out of a conventional terminal building makes us just as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself. For most of our clients this is their dream safari. Flying in the slightly smaller aircraft and touching down in Madikwe or Sabi Sands, landing on bush runways that are often not more than a tarred strip where there could often be game on the runway – it’s part of the experience.”
Founded in 1989, Federal Air was first based in Virginia, Durban and started operating under their current branding – Federal Airlines Pty Ltd – in 1993. Since then they have become the airline of choice for top safari destinations and the world’s largest and most reputable tour operators. In Southern Africa they are now a market leader in aviation shuttle and charter flights. According to Nik, having been around for about 24 years, they have an established history and long standing relationships with the various lodges that they fly to. “If you think about it, opposed to a normal airline we are more a travel organisation who just happens to fly airplanes around. That’s what we feel separates Federal Air from any other operator in this space.”
Seeing game from the air is definitely possible particularly when hopping from one lodge to another and you are flying lower to the ground – a possibility not open to you if you choose a commercial option. This means you have the chance to spot game before the adventure at the lodge even begins and is something that is quite unique to the Federal Air business.
Similarities between Federal Air and travel organisations come into play when looking at things like their brand strategy, everyday operations and all the other separate working parts of the business. “To stay on top of it all and to stay on top of routes that are not scheduled routes but shuttle routes is like playing tetris at max speed and getting all the blocks at once. So each day for us is completely different. And each day presents a new set of challenges,” says Nik.
There are also many operational differences between Federal Air and a conventional commercial airline. Many of the places they fly into don’t have navigational aids or runway lights – the runways themselves are often narrow tarred or gravel strips in the middle of the bush. Federal Air relies on their experienced crew to navigate these as safely as possible to move thousands of people on a daily basis throughout the country. “That in itself has become a vital service,” Nik explains. “The lodges themselves lie in remote locations and they rely on us to get their guests there – particularly now over the summer months which fall within our rainy season and storms are frequent but we still deliver.”
Nik elaborates on how that vital service extends beyond merely delivering passengers to their final destination. “When international visitors arrive in the country they usually have preconceived notions about Africa and we are more than likely the first people that they will meet and interact with and oftentimes also the last, so we act as brand ambassadors for the lodges we fly to. This all places high importance on our added value customer services such as our complimentary meet and greet and bringing them to Federal Air from the OR Tambo terminals.”
This is just another example of the kind of service that you won’t get with a conventional airline. It’s a very bespoke, hands on approach that Federal Air takes with their clients – which is what makes them more a luxury hospitality service that happens to do shuttle flights. “Think of us as your 5 star lodge in the sky,” Nik says. That is the core of the Federal Air brand.