Dozens of December flights have been cancelled after the new lockdown rules

Business Insider SA

Flights cancelled South Africa Covid-19
(Getty Images)
  • FlySafair, Kulula, and British Airways have all confirmed flight cancellations due to the extended curfew in Covid-19 hotspots.
  • Flights to George, Port Elizabeth, and East London have been particularly hard hit.
  • South Africa’s newest airline, Lift, says it hasn’t cancelled any flights yet, but is considering changes to its Garden Route schedule.
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The newly tightened lockdown rules for December has seen dozens of flights cancelled.

Travel to three regional airports – George, Port Elizabeth, and East London – has been particularly disrupted. Those airports now fall under a curfew that starts at 22:00, forcing cancellations of late-night flights.

On December 16, South Africa’s popular low-cost carrier, FlySafair, was the first to confirm multiple cancellations.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel some flights due to the new curfew times,” announced FlySafair via social media. “All affected passengers will get a full refund or completely free flight change.”

FlySafair offers a regular late-night flight plan, with departures beyond 20:00. This leaves little room for error when flying to hotspot areas, with even the slightest delays meaning travellers will be in breach of a curfew that demands they be home.

Additionally, delays of an hour or more threaten South Africa’s most popular domestic route between Johannesburg and Cape Town. To reduce the risk for passengers, airlines are hurrying to alter flight plans and restrict, where possible, the frequency of late-night travel.

Comair, which operates and British Airways in South Africa, has also reported disruptions to its flight schedules because of the early curfew.

“Customers are booking much closer to departure and some flights that would contravene the curfews have been cancelled,” noted brand communications manager, Luane Lavery. “These are mainly late evening flights.”

While the early curfew has been blamed as the primary cause for late-night flight cancellations, restrictions placed on Covid-19 hotspots – which happen to include some of the country’s most-popular December beach holiday destinations – have also resulted in last-minute changes.

The closure of beaches in the Eastern Cape and along the Garden Route, and fear of infection during stays there, have resulted in a wave of sudden cancellations.

“Customers have reacted differently to the regulations, and more particularly travel to hotspot areas,” said Lavery. “Some people are choosing to postpone their trips.”

South Africa’s newest airline, Lift, says that its flexible flight cancellation policy has been well received during this time of uncertainty. The airline, which operated its inaugural flight on 10 December, offers passengers the option to cancel or postpone flights without incurring any financial penalties.

And while Lift has not yet needed to alter its flight plans, largely due to the its daytime schedule, co-founder Gidon Novick has warned that may have to change.  

“We have not been forced to change our schedule but where we see major changes in flying behaviour and cancellations from customers, we may make adjustments to the schedule where necessary... due to increased restrictions in the Garden Route means we are reviewing our George schedule.”

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