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SAA weathers Covid-19 fourth wave storm – analysts

SAA this week announced signing a co-operation agreement with local and regional carrier CemAir that extends the route network reach of both operators. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi, ANA.

SAA this week announced signing a co-operation agreement with local and regional carrier CemAir that extends the route network reach of both operators. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi, ANA.

Published Dec 10, 2021

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The operations of national carrier SA Airways (SAA) have largely escaped the turbulence hitting international carriers, which are facing mass cancellations as travellers avoid strenuous travelling restrictions due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to analysts.

SAA retook to the skies in September after being grounded for over a year due to a lengthy business rescue following financial woes, exacerbated by the Covid-19 disruption.

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"SAA is not affected at all because it is not flying the international routes yet. It is not going to your London, Netherlands or France where there are strenuous requirements and it has an advantage operating in Southern Africa and West Africa," aviation analyst Phuthego Mojapelo said yesterday.

Several countries have imposed sweeping travel restrictions on citizens travelling to Southern Africa after South Africa recently identified the new variant.

International carriers, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have reportedly been hard hit as they oversold their tickets for the holiday season and now had to either refund or do away-from-home repatriations of passengers who had already used half the ticket.

Analysts said currently South Africa has not placed restrictions on domestic and regional travel and it was unlikely that other African countries in which SAA operates would imposer harsher restrictions.

SAA, which resumed operations about two months ago has regular local flights from Joburg to Cape Town and regionally to Accra, Kinshasa, Harare and Lusaka.

However, SAA’s recently launched Mauritius leg has been suspended for now due to restrictions in that country.

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Likewise it had anticipated starting a daily Maputo, Mozambique, service from this month, but plans had been shelved due to the Omicron outbreak.

SAA is implementing travel advisories from the African countries it flies to and recently alerted its Zimbabwe passengers that while flights schedules would be normal, there were requirements that every person have a negative PCR health certificate valid for 48 hours from the date and time of issue, a mandatory PCR test on arrival and 14-day quarantine for negative results.

SAA this week announced signing a co-operation agreement with local and regional carrier CemAir that extends the route network reach of both operators.

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This interline arrangement enables flight scheduling connections and adds more destinations to the route network of both airlines. Routes not currently serviced by SAA on which it now has access include Luanda, Durban, Hoedspruit, George, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Plettenberg Bay, Margate, Sishen and Gqeberha.

The agreement comes hard on the heals of SAA last month signing a deal with Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, towards co-starting a Pan African Airline Group by 2023.

The signing of the Strategic Partnership Framework by the two African airlines would see both work together to increase passenger traffic, cargo opportunities, and general trade by taking advantage of strengths in South Africa, Kenya and Africa. It is expected that the partnership will improve the financial viability of the two airlines.

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