Emirates has reportedly been forced to cancel several flights to and from South Africa over confusion about new COVID-19 travel regulations which were imposed on October 1. Both Emirates and Qatar Airways have cancelled scheduled flights to Durban, while local media reports suggest a number of international carriers could also be forced to temporarily axe services to both Cape Town and Johannesburg until the regulations are clarified.
The AFP news agency reported the cancellations were prompted by new travel restrictions that treat flight and cabin crew the same as leisure travellers. From October 1, South Africa reopened to international tourists but leisure travellers who have been 60 high-risk countries in the past 14-days are banned from entering.
Both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar are considered high-risk countries. Other countries on the banned list include the United States, the UK and France. Certain exemptions apply for “business travellers with scarce and critical skills”, as well as diplomats.
But the regulations do not extend a specific exemption for flight and cabin crew. If that is the case, crew would not be allowed to enter South Africa and would be forced to fly straight back to Dubai or Doha.
While it’s entirely possible to operate these flights with two sets of crew, it creates operational challenges that might not make such a flight worth it.
Emirates resumed flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town on October 1 and were meant to restart operations to Durban on Sunday with a connection from Johannesburg. That flight has been cancelled and there is no available data for when Emirates will now restart flights to Durban.
Qatar Airways has also cancelled flights to Durban and initially axed flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg before resuming scheduled operations on Saturday.
According to local media, South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority is urgently looking into the matter with a view to making it possible to safely restart flights. All leisure travellers entering South Africa must present a negative COVID-19 test certificate and it’s likely that this rule will also extend to flight and cabin crew.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.