Level 3 travel: All you need to know about permits, airfares and accommodation
Bonnie Smith, general manager, FCM Travel Solutions, said as business travellers gear up to travel under level 3 lockdown, they will be the first to experience the "new normal" in airports, planes and accommodation.
Here is some information you need to know before you fly:
Covid-19 has dealt a massive blow to the aviation industry, with all planes grounded for weeks. As a result, airlines desperately want to recover lost revenue by filling seats. Smith said this does not mean airfares will be highly discounted.
"As with any other business, pricing will depend on supply and demand.
"Currently, on FlySafair, a round-trip Johannesburg - Durban will set travellers back on average R2 238, a return Lanseria – Durban will cost R1 834 while a return Johannesburg - Cape Town will start from R3 038 and a return Lanseria – Cape Town starts from R2 635. Mango’s flights start at R3 329 for a return Johannesburg - Cape Town, and R1 949 for a return Johannesburg to Durban," she said.
CemAir launched flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town from Friday, June 5 and Johannesburg and Durban from June 8. The airline will not offer flights during the weekend.
Airlink will resume operations from June 8 with two daily flights on the Durban and Cape Town routes. Airlink will have reduced capacity over the weekends.
Low-cost carrier FlySafair will take to the skies from June 15. The airline is operating roughly 20% of its flights as compared to pre-Covid-19. There will be twice-daily flights between Johannesburg and Durban, and four times a day between Johannesburg and Cape Town on weekdays. Weekends will see lower frequencies. Mango resumes operations on June 15 as well with two frequencies daily on the routes between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban on weekdays. There will be reduced frequencies during the weekend.
The middle seat
There is much debate around the middle seats. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has rejected this policy, saying, “the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from one passenger to another passenger on board is very low”.
Research shows that the risk of transmission is cut significantly due to having seatbacks as barriers, the use of HEPA filters onboard (of the same standard as those found in hospital theatres and with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses), minimising movement around the cabin, and the practice of good hand and surface hygiene. Airlines are therefore permitted to operate at full capacity.
Aviation experts have, however, said it is unlikely flights will operate at full capacity as it will take time for demand to build up. FlySafair has indicated that if the flight is less than 67% booked, the middle seat will remain open. Travellers can also opt to buy an extra seat next to them.
It is the responsibility of travellers to ensure they have the necessary permission to travel, before even buying a ticket. Business travellers will need to carry a letter on company letterhead, signed by a manager, as well as a completed employer permit form. These forms are all available on the FCM website. Any traveller who fails to produce the required documents will not be permitted to fly.
Vehicle rental services have been allowed to operate since alert level 4 and will continue to support other level 3 services. This has allowed vehicle rental companies ample time to enhance their health and safety procedures. Car rental shops are adhering to stringent social distancing and cleaning protocols. All staff will wear masks, and any person entering the premises will undergo temperature screening.
While accommodation remains closed to the public for most purposes, business travellers will now be permitted to book and stay in accommodation for the duration of their work trip. Joining the trickle of accommodation services, City Lodge Hotel Group, which represents five distinct hotel brands in South Africa, is starting to reopen its hotels in a phased response to business traveller demand. Four of Tsogo Sun's properties have opened as well as The Capital's hotels and six Orion hotels.
Hotels will in all likelihood request proof that travellers are on permitted business travel as they have been warned that they can expect visitors from inspectors, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane warned. Some hotels have also indicated they will not accept cash payments.