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Covid-19 and flying: Compulsory bag wraps, no food and stringent temperature checks

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and ACSA chief executive Mpumi Mpofu during a demonstration of the country's readiness to resume domestic air travel at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Sihle Mlambo/IOL

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and ACSA chief executive Mpumi Mpofu during a demonstration of the country's readiness to resume domestic air travel at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: Sihle Mlambo/IOL

Published Jun 3, 2020


Johannesburg – No touching, self-scanning your digital boarding ticket and compulsory bag wrapping are some of the measures that have been taken as domestic flights are set to resume this month. 

The Department of Transport and its state-owned partners, including the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), the Civil Aviation Authority, Port Health, and airliners, say they believe the country is ready to undergo flights at 100% capacity this month. 

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Aircraft will be disinfected daily and between flights. A high efficiency particular air (HEPA) filter, which is stored with the cargo, will be in use. 

HEPA apparently kills bacteria by trapping microscopic particles. 

Between flights, aircraft will be sanitised, wiped and cleaned, and a fogger can will be utilised. 

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— Minister of Transport |Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile)

Civil Aviation Authority director Poppy Khoza said this standard had been set for all airlines.

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Acsa chief executive Mpumi Mpofu said they had undergone stringent measures ahead of domestic flights being allowed for business use from mid-June. 

She said no members of the public will be allowed inside the airports, but only persons who were travelling and who had obtained a permit or authorisation from their company, indicating their trip was for business purposes.

Essential travel, for funerals for instance, would also be allowed, but a traveller would require a permit from the police authorising travel. 

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But if a passenger failed a temperature check which would be undertaken at the airport entrance, they would be sent home, she said. 

“Passengers who fail a temperature check ahead of a flight will not be allowed to fly and will be sent home, there is no doubt of that,” Mpofu explained.

Passengers will be frequently sanitised around the airport and will have to adhere to strict physical distancing measures around the airport. 

Picture: Sihle Mlambo/IOL

Screening will be done at the entrance of the airport, at the check-in counter, boarding gates and ahead of entry onto the aircraft, officials said. 

However, Mpofu said if a passenger developed some sort of symptom on the aircraft before or during the flight, they would be isolated at the back of the aircraft in a “sick bay”.

She explains: “The reservation of the last seat is only in the event that someone develops some kind of symptom on the flight. 

“It is like a sick bay, it is only for in the event that someone develops symptoms”.

Mpofu said when passengers arrived at the boarding gates “you will all be well”. 

“Any sign that you are not well. We will not allow you. There will be teams of people who will be looking at your behaviour to see if you are symptomatic,” she said. 

And for passengers who do get turned away owing to high temperatures, she said they would have to make arrangements with airlines for potential refunds or rescheduling of flights. 

She said this would be in line with each airline’s refund policy. 

Meanwhile, FlySafair’s chief executive officer, Elmar Conradie, said travellers were urged to check in online ahead of trips. 

Self-service check-in counters would be available at the airports as well. 

He said airlines were adopting a no-touch policy at the check-in counter. 

Going to the check-in counter would only be necessary to perform a bag drop, he said. 

At the security checkpoint, Acsa said they were also adopting a no-touch policy, and travelers would have to scan their boarding pass, with an official on hand to monitor if the light flashed green, permitting travel.

At the boarding gates, airlines are adopting a similar strategy, as airline staff will not be making any contact with customers, their ID documents or boarding passes.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said under phase one of permitted operations, OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka and Lanseria International Airports would be allowed to operate. 

He said flights were allowed for business travel and essential travel, meaning people would be allowed to travel by air for funerals.

“We want to limit unnecessary movements, if you have a permit from the police and you are travelling for a funeral, it is allowed,” he clarified. 

Officials also said it was compulsory to bag wrap luggage. This would be done at the parking lot before travellers were inside the airport terminals. 

And, on-board, no food will be allowed, only water. 

Mpofu said with all the measures that had been put in place, travellers should dedicate two hours for domestic travel, and not the usual one hour. 


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