South Africa moves to the next phase of air travel under lockdown – here are the changes

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that a number of air travel restrictions will be eased as part of the country’s move to ‘advanced’ level 3.

Speaking at a media briefing on Monday (29 June), Mbalula said that this will include the reopening of a number of domestic air routes, as well as general relaxations around the industry.

Mbalula said that in addition to the country’s four main airports – which opened three weeks ago – the following domestic airports may open from 1 July:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport (Bloemfontein);
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richard’s Bay Airport;
  • Skukuza International Airport.

O.R. Tambo International, Cape Town International, King Shaka International airport, and Lanseria have been open since the start of the June.

The new relaxation is for domestic travel only, with international travel only allowed for repatriation and medical evacuations.

Mbalula added the following sectors will also be allowed to conduct aerial work from 1 July:

  • Agricultural spraying;
  • Seeding and dying;
  • Culling;
  • Construction;
  • Surveying;
  • Aerial advertisement;
  • Search and rescue;
  • Photography;
  • Fire control.
  • Recreational for proficient purposes.

Mbalula said that a number of changes have also been made for business travellers, including improved screening and security processes.

He added that airlines are now permitted to provide pre-packed meals which must be placed in front of the passenger before they board.

He said that a number of airports have been excluded from this phased reopening – including George and East London – as they do not meet the minimum safety requirements.

Commenting on the difference between taxis and airlines, Mbalula said that the airlines are a much more hygienic form of travelling and that decisions are made following consultations with the airline industry.

“All of our airlines are fitted with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. This filter is able to ‘eat’ any form of virus, including the coronavirus,” he said.

“In a taxi, the only form of defence is if you wear a mask.”

He added that travellers may still not use air travel for leisure purposes.  Mbalula said that this decision was made as the country’s coronavirus cases are expected to increase in July and August.

Process

In line with a directive published at the end of May, a number of procedures must be followed as part of the air travel process under South Africa’s level 3 lockdown.

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.

Read: 6 lockdown changes announced for South Africa

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South Africa moves to the next phase of air travel under lockdown – here are the changes