Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
26 Mar 2020
6:10 am

SAA, Airlink, Comair, SA Express call off flights

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Emirates intends to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amidst an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions, and country lockdowns.

SAA airplane. Image: Supplied

The coronavirus crisis has had a debilitating effect on airlines, with more suspending services due to low demand.

Airlink announced on Wednesday that it would suspend all operations from Thursday at midnight until 20 April.

Airlink managing director and chief executive Rodger Foster said: “We intend to gradually reinstate a new optimised schedule of services once the lockdown has been lifted.

“While the restrictions are currently intended to last for 21 days, we will take our cue from the government and the relevant health authorities.

“Our target date for recommencing operations will be 20 April and we will continue to keep our customers, travel agents and operators informed should unforeseen circumstances necessitate a change to this date.”

While the airline announced earlier this year it would independently operate using its own flight code from 11 June, it has now changed the date to 20 April, when it resumes services.

Its customer care team will be available in the lockdown period during office hours to assist passengers with queries about the new flight code bookings.

On Tuesday, South African Airways (SAA) announced its decision to suspend all its domestic flights from Friday until 16 April. This after suspending all international and regional flights until 31 May.

The airline also closed its business class lounges in Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London as well as OR Tambo International departures lounge from yesterday until further notice.

“SAA is committed to looking after the interests of its customers and will assist customers whose itinerary must change as a result of the lockdown,” it said.

Customers can only change their travel itinerary for free and travel on Thursday before the lockdown starts at midnight. Re-accommodation of customers will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

SA Express’ operations were also suspended last week Wednesday until further notice. It has since accommodated customers on alternative flights and placed its staff on compulsory leave during the lockdown.

“The airline will utilise this period to review its current network and streamline operations for improved efficiency,” it said.

Comair confirmed on Tuesday it would be suspending all British Airways and Kulula flights from today, with scheduled flights to resume on 19 April. Employees would be staying at home from Friday until 17 April.

Chief executive Wrenelle Stander urged customers who would not be using their tickets and those wanting to postpone their travel to e-mail their booking details with new dates or request for a credit. No booking fee would be charged.

“Customers who do not wish to travel can cancel their flight and will receive a credit to the value of their flight, valid for 12 months from date of issue,” Stander said.

This only applies to tickets issued on or before Monday, for travel until 17 May.

Stander further urged non-South African citizens affected by travel restrictions to contact their respective consulates.

Despite significantly reducing its operations, including closing some offices, Emirates intends to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amidst an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions, and country lockdowns across the world.

The airline said it received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers. As a result, it will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, US, and Canada until further notice.

“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries reopen their borders, and travel confidence returns.

“By Wednesday [yesterday], although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations.

“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”


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