South Africa To Restore International Flights In October

South Africa Airways Airbus A340-600
Credit: Rob Finlayson

International flights to and from South Africa will resume Oct. 1, the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.

The move will likely benefit foreign carriers more than South African Airways (SAA)–particularly in long-haul services–given SAA’s current perilous state. Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, SAA has returned most of its fleet to lessors.

A government statement is expected imminently on whether more funding will be supplied for SAA, which has been in South Africa’s business rescue process, the approximate equivalent of Chapter 11 proceedings, since December 2019.

In a speech late Sept. 16, Ramaphosa said that borders will reopen to most countries in October as the country eases anti-pandemic measures.

South Africa closed its borders at the start of a strict lockdown March 27 to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Restrictions on movement have gradually been eased since June, but borders have remained closed. 

“It is time to move to what we will call our new normal,” Ramaphosa said in a nationwide address. “It is time to remove as many restrictions on the economic and social activity as it is safe to do ... We will gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel ... allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from the 1st of October 2020.”

However, Ramaphosa said that travel may still be restricted to and from countries with high COVID-19 infection rates.

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which operates the country’s three main international airports in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement.

“Our three international airports ... are ready to facilitate cross-border travel and will continue to adhere to the measures and protocols that have been in place for domestic travel over the past few months,” ACSA CEO Mpumi Mpofu said. “We will be guided by specific regulations and directives from the Department of Transport and the regulating body, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) as they are published in the coming days.” 

ACSA urged passengers to download the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app and comply with multiple requirements when traveling.

Upon arriving in South Africa, travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. They will be screened upon arrival and travelers displaying symptoms must take an on-the-spot COVID-19 test. If positive, travelers will need to enter mandatory quarantine facilities at their own cost. 

ACSA believes the number of international passengers will grow only gradually over coming months. 

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.