South African Airways (SAA) has suspended all international operations until May 31 in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.

The national flag carrier said the pandemic and resultant travel restrictions has seen a substantial decline in demand for air travel.

SAA will only continue services on its regional and domestic routes following the declaration of a State of Disaster in South Africa.


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The South African government has announced a travel ban and issued regulations aimed at combatting the spread or transmission of the virus.

New rules issued on Thursday suspended the disembarkation of foreign nationals from the high-risk countries.

Embarkation and disembarkation was made permissible only under the following circumstances:

  • Disembarkation of returning South African citizens and permanent residents;
  • Embarkation of departing foreign nationals, disembarkation of a declared medical emergency;
  • Foreign nationals must be approved by port health services; upon landing, crew from high risk countries shall be subject to medical screening and quarantined for 21 days.

SAA operates in three markets that form part of countries listed in the travel ban as high-risk areas.

These include the US, the UK and Germany. In addition, SAA operates flights to Australia and Brazil which have not been declared high-risk.  Service to all of these are now cancelled.

Zuks Ramasia, SAA acting chief executive, said: “In support of efforts by government to deal with this pandemic, and in the best interests of our crew, passengers and the public, we have decided to suspend all international flights until May 31, 2020.

“It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus. In addition, the increasing risks to our crew of contracting the virus including the possibility of being trapped in foreign destinations as a consequence of increasing travel bans cannot be ignored.

“We also recognise the fluidity in the conditions we operate in and the need to respond to these changes with speed, to this end we commit to keep all our stakeholders abreast of any changes on an ongoing basis.

“SAA regrets any inconvenience to our customers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and we encourage all customers to visit our website, www.flysaa.com, for further updates.

“We thank customers for their support by continuing to place their trust in South African Airways with their travel plans.”

SAA said it will provide regular updates through media statements, its official channels and through travel trade partners.