Qatar Airways is set to massively increase its presence in South Africa despite concerns that a fast-spreading variant of the COVID-19 virus could prove resistant to vaccines that countries are scrambling to inoculate their populations with. The variant, known as 501.V2, has prompted governments around the world to impose travel bans on South Africa to prevent importation of the virus but there are ways around direct flight bans.
The small state of Qatar has successfully managed to control the spread of the novel Coronavirus at home through tough border measures and mandatory hotel quarantine for the few people who are allowed to enter the country.
Qatar Airways, however, has been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic with passengers transiting through its Doha-hub. Because many countries assess travel restrictions on domestic infection rates, Qatar Airways has faced few problems in continuing to operate to destinations worldwide.
“We are proud to be the leading international carrier connecting Africa with Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S,” commented Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker on Monday.
Al Baker spoke just hours before President Biden is expected to sign an executive order banning travel from South Africa. A slew of other countries have imposed similar bans, including the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Several other countries have allowed flights to restart but with stricter health measures in place, including mandatory pre-departure and arrival testing, as well as quarantine.
There are fears, however that passengers will be able to circumvent tough travel restrictions by traveling through a third country.
Qatar Airways plans to increase services to Cape Town to five per week from February 1, while services to Johannesburg will jump to 18 flights per week from January 26. Services to Durban will also increase to three weekly flights from February 14.
Last week, Denmark expressed concern about mutations of the COVID-19 virus entering the country via a third country. In that case, it was Dubai where Emirates is based. The Danish transport ministry imposed a temporary flight ban on the United Arab Emirates over “suspected irregularities” with pre-departure tests performed in the country.
Qatar Airways is currently serving 120 destinations and plans to increase that number to 130 by the end of March.
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.