Friday, 20 March 2020

Johannesburg: South African Airways (SAA) has announced that it will immediately suspend all international operations until 31 May 2020, in response to government’s travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic and attendant travel restrictions have resulted in a 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,” said SAA in a statement on Friday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster on Sunday. Government announced a travel ban and issued regulations which introduced certain measures aimed at combatting the spread or transmission of the Coronavirus.

Among 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,” said SAA.

SAA Acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, said: “In support of efforts by government to deal with this pandemic, and in the best interests of our crew, passengers and the public, we have decided to suspend all international flights until 31 May 2020.

“It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus. In addition, the increasing risks to our crew of contracting the virus including the possibility of being trapped in foreign destinations as a consequence of increasing travel bans cannot be ignored.”

“We also recognise the fluidity in the conditions we operate in and the need to respond to these changes with speed, to this end we commit to keep all our stakeholders abreast of any changes on an ongoing basis,” said Ramasia.

SAA said it regrets any inconvenience to customers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It encouraged all customers to visit www.flysaa.comfor further updates.

Customers are advised to either contact their travel agents, or for direct bookings, South African Airways Call Centres on +27 (0)11 978-1111 or 0861 606-606 or 0800 214-774 (South Africa only) or +27 (0)11 978-2888.