UPDATE: More SAA flights prevented from leaving Zim in cross-border compliance issue

2017-08-19 13:39 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - It could be a weekend of cancellation frustration for passengers travelling between SA and Zimbabwe, unless compliance issues are sorted out urgently. 

South African Airways has confirmed that another SAA flight has been grounded in Zimbabwe on Saturday morning, 19 August. 

- Flight SA025 from Harare to Johannesburg could not operate at 07:00.  

- Flight SA022 which was scheduled to depart at 10:45 from Johannesburg to Harare has also been cancelled. 

SEE: ALERT: SAA flight cancelled as aviation compliance issues between SA and Zim escalate

SAA confirmed the decision to impose the restriction emanates from the requirement from Zimbabwean authorities of a Foreign Operators Permit, from the airline to continue to operate in that country. SAA operates a total of nine flights daily to three destinations in Zimbabwe. Have you been affected - email or tweet Traveller24.

"Every effort will be made to assist all affected passengers and our recovery plans have been activated. SAA is monitoring the situation and will provide updates on a regular basis and when there are developments,” says SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

SEE: What to do when your flight gets cancelled 

According to a Bulawayo24 report the SAA grounding is seen as “retaliation" after the South African Civil Aviation authority prevented a Harare bound Air Zimbabwe flight from taking off from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Friday evening, 18 August due to the same reason.

SEE: South Africa leads aviation safety in Africa - ICAO

Issues of compliance - Foreign Operator's Permit

The Air Zimbabwe plane was grounded at OR Tambo international for also not having a Foreign Operator’s permit. 

SA Civil Aviation spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba confirmed to Traveller24 the Air Zimbabwe aircraft was unable to take-off due to non-compliance with South African civil aviation regulations.

As part of SACAA routine 'ramp inspections' on Friday evening,  the Boeing 767-200 operated by Air Zimbabwe was” found to not be complaint with both international civil aviation standards, and Part 129 of the South African civil aviation regulations.”

Air Zimbabwe, which was blacklisted by the UK Aviation Authority in May this year due to safety concerns, does not have a Foreign Operator's Permit in order to conduct operations into, and within South Africa, the SACAA found.

SEE: EU Air Safety Blacklist: Mozambique and Benin airlines cleared as Zimbabwe carrier banned

“A copy of the Foreign Operator's Permit, together with other documents, must be on-board an aircraft at all times, and made available for inspection on request by the relevant authorities,” says Ledwaba. 

SADC 'reciprocal understanding'  

The Bulawayo24 report indicates, although the FOP is mandatory, “most airlines within the region operate without one, in some form of "reciprocal understanding”.  

SA Airlink operations may also be caught in the crossfire as “none of the SADC based countries have national airlines which meet this requirement”, but this has not been confirmed.

fastjet spokesperson Hein Kaiser confirmed to Traveller24 that the airline's "necessary paperwork are in order" and that its operations between South Africa and Zimbabwe are operating as per normal.

"At this time fastjet flights remain unaffected," says Kaiser.

Traveller24 is trying to get clarity on the "reciprocal understanding" and has been in touch with a few regional airlines to confirm the necessary certification is in fact in place, but is awaiting more responses.

Red alert for Grace Mugabe

Robert Mugabe arrived in a similar aircraft via Waterkloof Airbase- but Mugabe’s personal airplane, operated by Air Zimbabwe, is not believed to be affected by the cancellation.

A "red-alert" has been issued by police in case Grace Mugabe attempts to cross the South African border after she allegedly assaulted a 20-year-old model in a Sandton Hotel on Sunday - which is further fuelling diplomatic tensions between the two countries - Read News24's latest report here.

Irrespective, business and leisure tourism between the two countries are sure to be affected by the compliance issues, with passengers being advised to keep in touch with their airlines and make alternative arrangements as necessary.

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