Travel bans
(Constantine Johnny, Getty)
  • Domestic air travel for anything other than leisure is legal again from Monday, under Alert Level 3 rules.
  • But regulations published on Saturday morning say only four airports will open for business, in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
  • Several other airports have been on standby throughout lockdown for emergencies, but passenger travel will not be allowed between them.
  • You'll only be able to fly for specific purposes, and you'll need paperwork to prove the reason.
  • It is not clear who will decide if your business trip is really necessary, though.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

* This article has been updated to include information from a press conference held subsequent to its initial publication.

Domestic air travel in South Africa will reopen from Monday, 1 June, in terms of transport regulations published on Saturday morning – but in a strictly limited fashion.

Only four airports will be open for passengers:

  • OR Tambo International and Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg
  • Cape Town International, and
  • King Shaka International outside Durban.

Airports in Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Upington, Polokwane, and outside the Kruger Park have been kept on standby throughout lockdown to cater for emergencies, but they will not be able to host flights immediately.

See also: Game parks and hikes are legal again from Monday – but no overnight stays and only in-province

At a press conference on Saturday afternoon, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said the airports to be opened first are considered to be phase 1 of the reopening of domestic air travel.

If inland infections are considered low enough, the phase 2 airports will be reopened. They are:

  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
  • Polokwane International Airport
  • Bram Fischer Airport in Bloemfontein.

Phase 3 airports will only follow if health screening capacity is sufficient. The phase 3 airports are:

  • Kimberley Airport
  • Upington Airport
  • East London Airport
  • Umtata Airport
  • Port Elizabeth Airport

In the initial phase, at least, nobody who isn't flying (or airline or airport staff) will be allowed into terminal buildings, the new rules say; if you drop someone off or collect them, that can only be done outside the building.

However, there is no allowance in other travel rules for dropping off or collecting people from airports by anyone other than transport professionals, among the right to leave home for work, church, or to go shopping

Tickets for some flights went on sale earlier this week, but seats were very limited.

See also: You can now buy tickets for domestic flights next week - but you'll have to move fast

While the new flying rules do not specify who may fly, they are specific about the reasons for flying that are not permitted: "recreational, leisure or tourism purposes."

Passengers must "provide written authorisation or proof of travel, confirming the reason" for their flight – and those who can not do so "shall be automatically denied travel".

In previous statements, government ministers have made it clear that the intention is to allow essential business travel for those organisations allowed to operate under Alert Level 3 – which covers much of the economy.

But what, exactly, will be deemed essential business travel, and who will decide if a trip qualifies, has never been made clear.

Under the main regulations governing Alert Level 3, various valid reasons for travel over provincial boundaries are specified, beyond business trips.

See also: New fees, no snacks, and no middle seats – what flying will look like in SA during Covid-19

Students and pupils returning to their studies are allowed to travel, as may people moving to a new home or "caring for an immediate family member, though they need forms and affidavits.

Members of Parliament "performing oversight responsibilities" are specifically allowed to travel, and so are close family members wishing to attend funerals.

Separate transport regulations also published on Saturday morning, dealing with rail services, allow the Gautrain to resume trains to and from OR Tambo airport as of 1 June. The Gautrain was not immediately available to comment on the schedule for trains to the airport.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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