Aviation: Qantas, Etihad suspends flights to South Africa


The COVID-19 pandemic led to a halt in international flights, as the virus spread across the globe. Although international flights have gradually resumed in many places, some international airlines based in South Africa have shut down their offices, leading to the termination of employment.

The Business Insider reported “Qantas quits South African route and will only return in October 2021” November 17 2020 that the Australian airline, Qantas, is the latest carrier to suspend flights to and from SA up until late October 2021. The country now joins the UK and USA as destinations excluded from Qantas.

While Qantas is in discussions about resuming flights to several Pacific and Asian destinations, the airline is now limiting its operations to New Zealand and Australia. The decision to halt flights to SA until late 2021 comes just weeks after Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, announced that services to the UK and US would remain suspended for a year.”

The announcement follows a temporary suspension of Etihad flights between SA and Abu Dhabi.

Global travel was suspended with the United Arab Emirates’ airline, Etihad Airways, being one of the airlines to recently suspend its flights between Abu Dhabi and SA for the summer season and returning in March 2021.

The Business insider reported “Etihad Airways suspends flights to SA” November 16 2020, that Etihad Airways has operated flights to and form SA since 2005, and it will suspends its flights between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi at the end of the year.

“As part of an ongoing review of network performance, Etihad Airways has suspended its flights from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg until 28 March 2021,” the Abu Dhabi-based carrier’s head of corporate communication Michael Campbell confirmed. “The decision to suspend the route is a commercial one, and a direct consequence of the affect of COVID-19 on global travel and tourism demand.”

Before the global coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions on international travel, Qantas had a steady connection to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, offering six direct flights to Sydney every week.

TimesLIVE reported “Coronavirus, lack of demand forces SAA to suspend international flights’ March 20 2020 that SAA announced it will immediately suspend all international operations until the end of May, in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of the coronavirus.
In a related development, American carrier, United Airlines has announced it won’t restart flights between New York and Cape Town until late 2021.

According to thesouthafrican.com, United Airlines was expected to relaunch direct flights between New York and Cape Town in December. The airline operates a seasonal service on the route, offering direct flights between Cape Town and New York from December to March.

The cancellation of United’s flights comes after Delta Airlines delayed the restart of its flights between Atlanta and South Africa in October, citing a slow-down in passenger demand as the cause for the delay. The global slump in demand for tourism and air travel has forced both airlines to cancel flights on the route.

Covid-19 Impacts Global Demand For Travel
Though the South African authorities now permit all international visitors to travel to South Africa — provided they comply with entry requirements and can produce a negative COVID-19 test result certificate on arrival — there still has not been sufficient demand to warrant United Airlines to restart this route.

Travel bans, border closures and compulsory quarantines are negatively affecting the ability of people to travel. In the wake of the global pandemic and restrictions which have caused havoc for the aviation and tourism sectors, many airlines have suspended their operations on certain routes until passenger volumes increase.

Seasonal Flights Between New York And Cape Town Cancelled
United Airlines had planned to relaunch direct flights between Cape Town and New York on 15 December. This service would have been a seasonal one, carrying passengers directly between New York and Cape Town until the end of March 2021.

United had scheduled three flights per week on this route. Flights would have been operated using a Boeing 787-900 aircraft. These flights offer significant time savings for passengers needing to fly between Cape Town and North America.

United’s Convenient Non-Stop Flights
The relaunch of flights on this route had been eagerly anticipated by travellers in both destinations. United’s direct flights offer a journey time of just over 14 hours between Cape Town and New York, which is the fastest way to travel between the two cities.

The route proved successful when United Airlines launched these flights in 2019. It was the first time in 20 years that direct flights became available between the Big Apple and the Mother City since South African Airways discontinued its direct flights between Cape Town and Miami in 1999.

United Airlines To Return To South Arica In 2021
United aims to restart flights on the Cape Town to New York route in October 2021, but plans to launch daily direct flights between Johannesburg and New York in March 2021.

“United Airlines will relaunch its seasonal winter service between Cape Town and New York for the 2021 Northern hemisphere winter travel season. The airline looks forward to beginning a new, non-stop daily service between Johannesburg and New York/Newark on March 28 2021,” a spokesperson for United Airlines said in an interview with Tourism Update.

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