LONDON – Local South African (SA) media is announcing that more airlines ‘could withdraw flights to SA’ due to what is being deemed as ‘chaotic travel laws’. The South African has announced that German carrier Lufthansa (LH) could be withdrawing out of the country, with Emirates (EK) already pulling out.
This is over the suspected mass confusion over the updated visa rules for entering into South Africa. It states that all Flight Crews will be asked to self-isolate upon arrival into SA, which limits the personal movement of cabin staff and Pilots.
Emirates responded with the immediate withdrawal of operations from its base in Dubai (DXB).
South African Opposition Furious
The shadow tourism minister Manny de Freitas expressed frustration to the South African Government over the EK withdrawal and the potential withdrawal by LH.
“Another prominent international airline for South Africa, Lufthansa, was reportedly refused entry at OR Tambo International Airport for not meeting the visa requirement – when this requirement seemingly does not exist.”
“The Tourism Minister should also clarify unconfirmed reports that German travelers would be welcomed in South Africa without visas. Information supplied to the DA indicates that virtually every airline is now withdrawing flights to South Africa in the midst of growing confusion relating to international travel. Once again, this has made us the laughing-stock of the travel world.”
The opposition was keen to note that other airlines, although unnamed, could also suspend operations out of the country.
Severe South African Shakiness
The shakiness within South Africa continues, especially with the aviation industry becoming even more volatile by the minute in the country. Whilst the opposition party stated that other airlines could pull out, one name could have the option of pulling out just days after announcing the resumption of services.
Around three days ago, Airways reported that Qatar Airways (QR) announced a resumption of services to the country. With these travel laws in place, the airline may have the opportunity to question them, and in the worst case, pull out.
On top of this, the country is currently trying to deal with debt-stricken carrier South African Airways (SA). Earlier this month, the state announced that the airline would receive around US$650m in state funding, as the airline continues to battle with destroyed finances, even before the pandemic.
News from around a week ago stated that the airline would suspend operations until additional funding on top of the state bailout was found.
Ethiopian Domination Enroute?
Earlier last month, it was revealed that Ethiopian Airlines (ET) is eyeing partnership with SA to help manage the airline.
Details in the last few days revealed that ET CEO Tewolde GebreMariam has offered aircraft, Pilots and maintenance services to help the airline. GebreMariam was keen to stress that the airline was not interested in dealing with the financial side of the airline.
“We don’t want to deal with the legacy issues — the debt, labour claims and so on because that is very difficult for us not only in terms of financial outlay but also in terms of managing the restructuring. We want to make it very easy for them to start the airline by providing airplanes, by providing expertise, pilots, technicians, leadership.”
Ethiopian Airlines has a fleet of modern aircraft, including the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which could be used to SA’s benefit. This of course, is relevant to the current situation in South Africa, as it would offer a lifeline not just to South African Airways, but to South African commercial aviation as a whole.
Because of the complications the South African Government has got itself into, it will have to do a plethora of things. The first thing is to clear up the issues surrounding travel and tourism into the country, with the objective of making it COVID-19 compliant, air-tight, but most of all simple for airlines and travelers to understand.
Second, it is to address the issues with SA more head-on, especially as it has been losing money for a considerable period of time. Last, consider the offer from ET as one regarding aircraft, Pilots and maintenance services, all of which is something that is not offered during normal times.
With that in mind, that appears to be the key to not just the success, but the rejuvenation of the South African market.
Featured Image: South African Airways Airbus A350-900. Photo Credit: Austin Ferreira