Air China puts direct route to SA on hold

2015-05-29 08:42
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Cape Town - Air China has cancelled the launch of its much-anticipated direct flights to South Africa.

Air China spokesperson Jane Hu told Traveller24, "The flight has been cancelled due to xenophobic attacks last month. China did issue a travel warning to our citizens not to travel to South Africa at that stage.

"People are worried about this country,” said Hu.

According to Hu, SA's revision of its visa rules also affected the airline's decision. On 1 June, children under the age of 18 years who are travelling to or from South Africa will be required to have an unabridged birth certificate.

"It's not only the children's policy but also finger printer (Biometric data) may cause more trouble in China. As you may know, most countries offer more loose visa policies for Chinese (citizens), as China is a huge market." 

SA's requirement for all visa applications to be done in person in order to submit biometric data has been problematic due to the lack of visa facilitation centres in China, resulting in potential visitors needing to travel to Beijing and Shanghai in order to apply. In a recent statement in Parliament, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom confirmed he was concerned about the decline in visitor number from South Africa’s key source markets, including China.

READ: Tourism minister concerned about visa rules

While the direct flight has been postponed until 29 October, Hu confirmed the airline would be placing an alert message regarding the unabridged birth certificate requirements on Air China's booking system in order to remind passengers about it. 

"We will have a team here for our new flight and will have a policy in place, (for) now we don't have our own flight yet. "

Airports Company South Africa Spokesperson (Acsa) Colin Naidoo confirmed to Traveller24 that Air China had cancelled their slots to South Africa for the season running from 31 August to 23 October.

Air China was expected to start operating a direct route to Johannesburg from Beijing in May 2015, following an announcement that SAA had cancelled its R1bn loss making Beijing route as part of its Long Term Turnaround strategy and entered into a code share agreement with Air China in order to strengthen connectivity between the two countries. 

When asked how this affected SAA's plans, SAAspokesperson Tlali Tali said," We will, through Hong Kong and other code share partners, continue to offer good connections into China." 

Hu echoed the sentiment saying, "We are working with SAA for more code share flights."



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