SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 16: Qantas aircraft o
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 16: Qantas aircraft on the tarmac at Sydneys Kingsford Smith Airport on November 16, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Australias national airline Qantas is celebrating 100 years of operation today having been founded in Winton, Queensland on 16th November 1920 named as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited by Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
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  • Australian airline Qantas is the latest carrier to suspend flights to and from South Africa.
  • South Africa now joins the UK and US as destinations excluded from Qantas’ flight path until late October 2021.
  • The announcement follows a temporary suspension of Etihad flights between South Africa and Abu Dhabi.
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South Africa’s international travel network has been dealt yet another setback, with Australia’s flag carrier, Qantas, announcing that it had suspended all flight bookings until October 2021.

While Qantas is in discussions about resuming flights to several Pacific and Asian destinations, the airline is currently limiting its operations to New Zealand and Australia. The decision to halt flights to South Africa until late 2021 comes just weeks after Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, announced that services to the UK and US would remain suspended for a year.

Prior to the global coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions on international travel, Qantas had a steady connection to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, offering six direct flights to Sydney every week. The airline, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, has a special history with South Africa stretching back to 1952, when the first flight between Sydney and Johannesburg was undertaken by a Lockheed L749-79.

In August 2020, reeling from international travel restrictions, Qantas recorded its worst financial result for a century, bleeding over R22 billion with borrowings to keep the airline operational topping R70 billion.

Joyce recently confirmed that international travel, particularly to the US and UK, would not enter Qantas’ radar until a successful coronavirus vaccine had been developed and distributed.

Qantas ticket holders have been advised to convert suspended bookings to travel credits. A ticket issued before 31 January 2020 will need to be reissued before 31 December 2020. This will validate credits, valued at the original fare, until 31 December 2022.

Qantas will continue international repatriation efforts with instruction from the Australian Government. On Friday 13 November, Qantas B787-9 departed O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg with 148 repatriates destined for Perth.

Qantas’ lengthy absence from South Africa’s airspace coincides with a recent announcement by Etihad Airways, the second flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that it, too, would be suspending operations. Etihad will return to South Africa in March 2021.

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