UPDATE: Kulula and British Airways to suspend all flights in SA for lockdown

2020-03-23 04:30
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UPDATE: Comair announced on Tuesday that it will suspend all kulula and British Airways flights in South Africa from 26 March. 

They will shut down all operations as part of President Cyril Ramaphosa's directive to put the country in lockdown from Thursday.

All their employees will stay at home from 27 March to 17 April - and will resume flights from 19 April.

Comair will try and accommodate customers wanting to travel over the next two days, subject to availability and fare differences. 

"We do however encourage customers, who will not be using their flight tickets or would like to change their flight booking to a later date, to email us their booking details, with the new dates or a request for a credit."

Customers who wish to change their travel date can do so for free; no change of booking fee will be charged; only a fare difference may apply.

Customers who do not wish to travel can cancel their flight and will receive a credit to the value of their flight, valid for 12 months from date of issue. A credit or rebooking/re-routing without a change of booking fee, will only apply to tickets issued on or before 23 March 2020, for travel until 17 May 2020.

For more information on their commercial policy, as well as information required in the email, please visit their websites, www.kulula.com or  www.comair.co.za. Because of an expectant high call and email volume, Comair asks for patience in replies.

"The far-reaching measures designed to curb the spread of this disease in South Africa requires all of us to change the way we do business, serve our customers and interact with each other socially and in the workplace," says Comair CEO Wrenelle Stander. 

"We remain in close contact with various industry partners, relevant regulators and health authorities to ensure we abide by all regulations and remain responsible and proactive in preventing the virus from spreading."


UAE to suspend all flights

The United Arab Emirates announced on Monday it will temporarily suspend all passenger and transit flights amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Emirati authorities "have decided to suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers in the UAE for two weeks as part of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19", reported the official state news agency, WAM.

It said the decision - which is subject to review in two weeks - will take effect in 48 hours, adding: "Cargo and emergency evacuation flights would be exempt."

The UAE, whose international airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are major hubs, announced on Friday its first two deaths from the Covid-19 disease, having reported more than 150 cases so far.

Monday's announcement came hours after Dubai carrier Emirates announced it would suspend all passenger flights by 25 March.

But the aviation giant then reversed its decision, saying it "received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers" and will continue to operate passenger flights to 13 destinations.

Emirates had said it will continue to fly to South Africa, the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, the US and Canada.

"We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services," said the airline's chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Gulf countries have imposed various restrictions to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the air transport sector.

The UAE has stopped granting visas on arrival and forbidden foreigners who are legal residents but are outside the country from returning.

Compiled by AFP


SAA suspends all international flights until end of May 2020  

South African Airways (SAA) has announced that it will immediately suspend all international operations until 31 May 2020 in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of the Coronavirus (Covid-19).

The COVID-19 pandemic and attendant travel restrictions, resulted in substantial decline in demand for air travel. The situation caused many airlines across the world to ground aircraft, release their employees, and to cancel flights. In the case of SAA, this decision means that SAA will only render services on its regional and domestic routes.

Following the declaration of the State of Disaster after the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa, the government announced a travel ban and issued regulations, which introduced certain measures aimed at combatting the spread or transmission of the virus.

Amongst other things, the regulations, issued on Thursday state that: “Disembarkation of foreign nationals from the high-risk countries is suspended on airports upon arrival. Embarkation and disembarkation is permissible under the following circumstances: Disembarkation of returning South African citizens and permanent residents; embarkation of departing foreign nationals, disembarkation of a declared medical emergency; foreign nationals must be approved by port health services; upon landing, crew from high risk countries shall be subject to medical screening and quarantined for 21 days”.

SAA operates in three markets that form part of countries listed in the travel ban as high-risk areas. These are the United States (Washington DC and New York, JFK), the United Kingdom (London, Heathrow) and Germany (Frankfurt and Munich). In addition, SAA operates flights to Australia (Perth) and Brazil (São Paulo) which have not been declared high-risk.  All of which are now cancelled. 

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Mauritius closes borders and suspends flights

Mauritius has closed its borders to all foreign nationals, including South Africans, effective from 19 March at 20:00.

This comes after the island's prime minister announced that three people have tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. 

Air Mauritius has halted all flights from South Africa to Mauritius, and no passengers will be allowed entry or transit in Mauritius.

Crew members will be allowed entry in the country, however, they shall be confined to their hotel rooms.

Flight schedules will be amended and those travelling out of Mauritius will be informed of the revised schedules in due course. The closure does not however affect passengers on the Mauritius - Rodrigues route. 

READ: Robben Island suspending tours indefinitely 


SAA cancels 162 flights (38 international and 124 regional)  

South African Airways scales down capacity due to travel disruptions and restrictions caused by Coronavirus 

South African Airways (SAA) has scaled down capacity in response to the low demand for air travel.

The effects of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have led to travel disruptions and restrictions across the world, leading to the grounding of aircraft, releasing employees, and cancelling flights for many airlines. SAA is not immune to these realities. 

In the light of the substantial fall in demand for air travel, SAA has reviewed its flight schedule and has decided to operate flights only under circumstances where its load factors and other business considerations weigh in favour of scheduling flights. However, certain flights that have been negatively impacted more than others, are consequently cancelled. 

“Notwithstanding the decline in demand, SAA continues to aggressively review its schedule to match capacity with demand to the extent possible. Where feasible, we will consider options that include cancelling and merging flights,” said SAA Chief Commercial Officer, Philip Saunders. 

For the period 17 until 31 March 2020, SAA has cancelled a total of 162 flights. Of these, 38 are international and 124 are regional (destinations on the African continent) flights.

For more go here.

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SA Express suspends operations

SA Express will be suspending all operations from 18 March indefinitely in light of adverse developments, including regarding the Covid-19 outbreak.

Customers with bookings will be accommodated on alternative flights, while non-critical staff will placed on compulsory leave.

"The airline will utilise this period to review its current network and streamline operations for improved efficiency."


Airlink changes

Airlink will be making changes to its flight schedule to adhere to the South African government's new travel restrictions amid the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak.

These changes are being generated automatically in the reservations systems and they urge our customers to re-check their itineraries using the 'Manage My Booking' function on Airlink’s website or through their booking agents. 

READ: SA's national parks to remain open as 'excellent opportunities for isolation' 

For customers holding tickets for travel between 18 March and 30 September 2020 who want to make changes to their travel dates, Airlink will facilitate one free date change to their reservation, for new dates of travel between 18 March and 31 December 2020. 

“The emergency measures will restrict travel to and from Airlink’s major overseas source markets resulting in multiple overnight requests for rebooking’s and cancellations," says Rodger Foster, Airlink's managing director and CEO. 

"We are aware that many South African business as well as government, have also introduced travel restrictions of their own, necessitating further reductions in schedule capacity. As far as possible these schedule changes have been introduced to allow Airlink to continue serving its customers with minimal inconvenience, as well as ensuring that no ticketholders are left stranded.”

READ: MSC cruises in SA to go ahead as scheduled amid coronavirus fears 

Worldwide flight restrictions

This has been happening across the global aviation sector.

Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad announced on Monday a suspension of all scheduled travel links with Europe.

Austria Airlines, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa group, said that it will suspend all of its regular flights from Thursday owing to a sharp drop in demand stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. 

IAG, owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, will slash the group's flight capacity by 75% during April and May.

Portugal will close its border with Spain to tourists for at least a month, including air travel. 

France will progressively reduce long-distance train, bus and plane travel over the coming days, with only a few international flights maintained, including to the US and Africa.

ALSO SEE: Department of Tourism postpones Africa Travel Indaba 


As Italy goes into lock down over Covid-19 outbreak, British Airways announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled all flights to the affected country, reports Sky News. 

The European country has the highest number of cases outside of China.

The airline last week introduced a flexible change policy on all new flight and holiday bookings and have removed change fees for all booking made between 3 and 16 March. 

READ MORE: What Emirates is doing to help travellers amid the Covid-19 outbreak 


Most airlines have cancelled flights to China and Hong Kong with some including South Korea, Italy and Iran -which already have had restrictions before the viral outbreak - due to coronavirus Covid-19.

Chinese and Hong Kong airlines have most of its flights suspended from China to countries like Australia, Singapore, UAE, Italy, UK, US, Japan and Vietnam, according to WorldAware. 

WATCH: Hong Kongers hit hiking trails to escape coronavirus woes 

South African Airways currently has no routes to Hong Kong or China. 

In terms of African airlines, Ethiopian has no flight suspensions to China, although one indirect route to Hong Kong has been suspended, and Kenya Airways have suspended all routes to the Asian country until 29 March.

Qatar has suspended some of its routes to Iran and Italy alongside China and Hong Kong. 

Turkish Airlines' suspended routes include South Korea, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia until 10 March.

Emirates is still operating to Hong Kong with only some flights suspended to China. 

ALSO SEE: Louvre in Paris shuts doors due to coronavirus fears - plus more abandoned tourist attractions 

Advisory for African countries

The African continent has been less affected by the outbreak, but measures are being put in place to halt its spread. 

As of 29 January, several additional African countries, including, Zambia, Rwanda, Comoros, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Liberia, Benin, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Togo, Botswana, Burundi, CAR, Djibouti, Eritrea, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Zimbabwe have implemented enhanced health screenings for passengers.

READ: Coronavirus causes worldwide spike in private jet inquiries - plus how much a charter flight costs in SA 

Cote d'Ivoire, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda had previously implemented health screenings already from 23 January.

Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan have reported suspected cases of the virus.

The measures are unlikely to impact most travellers but may lead to immigration delays, especially for passengers from China.

Read about more airlines' suspensions and country travel advisories here. 

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