regional travel

Photo: Ludovic Bechler / Flickr

Regional travel: Local airlines apply to operate regional routes

South Africans have been under a national lockdown for months. Many of us are eager for regional travel to open up.

regional travel

Photo: Ludovic Bechler / Flickr

On Friday, the Department of Transport indicated that official applications have been received from local airlines to operate flights on certain regional routes which would be inoperable because the airlines that operate on those routes are currently unable to provide flights.

The absence of certain airlines

The airlines which traditionally operated flights outside of South Africa’s borders included South African Airways, Comair’s British Airways, South African Express Airways and SA Airlink. Of these, only SA Airlink is currently operational.

South African Airways is unable to operate flights while it waits for start-up funding to be allocated.

British Airways and low-cost airline Kulula (operated by Comair) are not operational, while also being in a business rescue process that aims to be completed soon.

South African Express Airways was grounded earlier this year, after it was placed under provisional liquidation. A due diligence process is taking place, in an effort to save the airline.

Once South Africa’s borders reopen there will be a need for airlines to operate on key unserved routes.

Other airlines available to fill the regional gap

Certain routes that were operated by South African Airways, SA Express and British Airways will be without any service if an operating carrier is not granted the rights to operate frequencies.

SA Airlink and FlySafair, who presently operate only domestic flights, have expressed interest in operating flights on selected routes, when regional travel is permitted.

SA Airlink operated a regional network, flying to numerous key destinations outside of South Africa before the lockdown. It has applied to operate services on the popular Johannesburg to Livingstone route, which was previously operated by SAA and British Airways.

FlySafair, which operates only domestic scheduled flights, has also applied to pick additional routes. If approved, FlySafair will operate flights from Johannesburg to Mauritius, Zanzibar and Windhoek.   

With these developments being announced, it is possible that regional travel will be permitted in the near future.