South African Airways 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 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.
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”.
South African Airways 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 canceled.
“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 the 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,” said SAA Acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia.
“We also recognize 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. “We thank customers for their support by continuing to place their trust in South African Airways with their travel plans,” concluded Ramasia.
[UPDATE 1 |March 20, 2020]
South African Airways Africa Regional Flights Suspended Until 31 May 2020 Due to Knock on Effect of Decision to Suspend International Flights
Earlier today, South African Airways (SAA) announced that it is suspending all international flights with immediate effect until 31 May 2020, to support the government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
As a direct consequence of this suspension, there was an immediate drastic reduction of demand for the African regional flights. SAA is a network carrier, which means that a significant part of the regional bookings demand is fed by the passengers that travel to or from the international destinations. Therefore, the suspension of the international flights has resulted in the airline not being able to operate its normal network. This resulted in operation of regional flights not being commercially viable anymore.
Flights to the following destinations have been suspended as of 20 March 2020 until 31 May 2020: Accra (Ghana), Lusaka (Zambia), Harare (Zimbabwe), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Windhoek (Namibia), Lagos (Nigeria), Entebbe (Uganda).
Mauritius will operate until Saturday, 21 March 2020.
This decision means that SAA will only continue to render services on its domestic route between Johannesburg and Cape Town.