State-owned national flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) is to undertake charter flights to repatriate foreign citizens caught in South Africa by the national lockdown which started at midnight March 26/27. This lockdown is an attempt to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first such flights will take place on April 3 and will repatriate German citizens. They will be flown from Johannesburg to Munich and from Cape Town to Frankfurt. “We are very happy that, in accordance with the rules by the South African government, we have found an agreement with South African Airways to organise the repatriation of remaining German tourists in South Africa,” said German Ambassador Martin Schäfer.
Foreign citizens caught in South Africa by the lockdown include tourists and students. It is believed that they number in the thousands.
In addition to the lockdown itself, the South African government closed the country’s borders and shut down all air traffic, except for essential air cargo operations. Subsequently, a number of foreign embassies approached SAA’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) – the airline is in a process of business rescue – to ascertain whether or not the flag carrier would carry out repatriation flights for their countries’ citizens.
Following consultations with, and approvals from, the relevant government departments, the BRPs and airline agreed to provide such charter flights. Although the first flights are to Germany, the BRPs have stated that talks are under way with other countries about the repatriation of their citizens.
“In these difficult times, SAA is committed to collaborating with all its partners and stakeholders in the fight against Covid-19,” assured the BRPs in their statement. “The airline will ensure the necessary transfer of passengers and essential cargo takes place in a safe and compliant manner for all during these flights.”
The BRPs also thanked all the airline’s staff who will prepare and serve on these flights. These services will be operated in accordance with the health and safety and other relevant regulations in force during the lockdown.
It was stressed that these flights are not medical evacuation flights. No-one who has tested positive for Covid-19 will be allowed onboard of any of these flights. All passengers will, in accordance with South African government protocols and SAA policies, be screened before departure. Anyone showing flu-like symptoms will not be permitted to board the aircraft.
“We are grateful for the cooperation with the South African government,” stated Schäfer. “And we are glad to join forces with SAA as a reliable partner. We hope our compatriots will be back with their friends and families in Germany very soon.”