Here’s the new normal for flying in South Africa as airports reopen

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has outlined how domestic air travel will work under South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown.

Limited domestic air travel for business purposes is allowed under level 3, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorisation based on the reason for travel.

The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases, the minister said, with additional airports added in each phase as follows:

Phase 1

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Lanseria International Airport.

Phase 2

  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Polokwane International Airport;
  • Bram Fischer Airport.

Phase 3

  • Kimberley Airport;
  • Upington Airport;
  • East London Airport;
  • Umtata Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth Airport.


The limited domestic air travel means that flights will only be allowed to depart and land at selected airports in a phased manner, the minister said.

He added that only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings and that temperature screening will be conducted at terminal building entrances before any passenger is allowed entry.

No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks.

“All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres. This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges.

“All airline check-in agents will wear face shields and the counters will be installed with protective screens. Check-in counters will also be frequently sanitised,” he said.

Mbalula said that passengers are encouraged to use self-check-in to avoid queues at the airport and that boarding will be staggered and prioritized in terms of the number of passengers to board.

The check-in process is as follows:

  • Passengers should check-in online before going to the airport;
  • Online check-in can be done at the screens in the terminal building;
  • A limited number of check-in counters will be open and physical distancing rules will apply in these queues;
  • Using a check-in counter will take longer.

The security checkpoint process is as follows:

  • Passengers will scan their own paper-based or mobile device-based boarding pass to the scanner at the security checkpoint.
  • Passengers should remove any metal and electronic items from their person before entering the security queue. This includes mobile devices, watches, jewellery, wallets, keys and so on
  • These items must be placed in the tray at the security scanner.
  • This process will minimise the need for security officers to conduct physical pat-downs at the checkpoint.

The boarding process is as follows:

  • Physical distancing rules apply for queues to board an aircraft;
  • Passengers must scan their own boarding pass at the boarding gate;
  • Boarding will be done in a controlled manner with passengers travelling in the rear seats of the aircraft boarding first. Passengers with tickets for Row A, for example, will board last;
  • Masks must be worn for the duration of the flight.


Mbalula said that inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed.

He added that the risk of Covid-19 infection onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces.

“All our commercial aircraft are fitted with the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These are manufactured to the same standard as those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms, with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses,” he said.

“While the total air supply inside the cabin is essentially sterile and particle-free, the biggest risk is if someone enters or remains in that environment, while unwell with a viral infection. This risk will be mitigated through the adoption of effective sanitization and personal hygiene protocols.”

He said that the following measures will apply inside the cabin of the aircraft:

  • No catering will be allowed:
  • No magazines on board;
  • The last row will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.
  • All aircrafts must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight.

The disembarkation process will be as follows:

  • Masks must continue to be used when disembarking and moving towards the baggage carousels;
  • Physical distancing rules will apply at the baggage carousels;
  • Crowding close to the baggage carousels will not be permitted.

“Loading capacity for all airport buses must be limited to 70%. These buses must be disinfected after off-loading. Drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),” Mbalula said.

“On arrival, all passengers must be screened as they enter the terminal building. Suspected cases must be referred to Port Health.”

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Here’s the new normal for flying in South Africa as airports reopen