Qatar flights South Africa Middle East Doha
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on November 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
  • Doha-based Qatar Airways has expanded its operations in Africa, with more than 100 weekly flights connecting via Hamad International Airport.
  • South Africa’s weekly flight count will increase to 26, with additional operations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
  • And while Qatar Airways hopes to capitalise on the grounding of its main Middle Eastern competitors, Doha remains off limits to South African travellers and can only be used as a transit point.
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Qatar Airways is expanding its service in Africa by adding a further 23 destinations to its itinerary and increasing its operational frequency to more than 100 weekly flights. Additional flights to Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town come at a time when most international airlines are cutting back on their South African routes.

Travel between South Africa and the Middle East has traditionally been dominated by three airlines, namely, Qatar, Emirates and Etihad.

In November 2020, Etihad announced that it had suspended all flights to and from South Africa as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. These flights were initially scheduled to reopen at the end of March 2021.

Similarly, Emirates, based in Dubai, was forced to halt its South African operations for at least ten days, with flights expected to reopen on Thursday 28 January. This suspension coincides with a total ban on South African travellers into Dubai.

READ | Dubai halts entry to SA travellers – returning residents first need govt approval

Serving the Middle East as a connection point to other countries, Qatar Airways’ flight schedule has remained relatively unscathed. Despite a brief suspension of flights, which ended in October 2020, Qatar Airways currently serves as one of the only direct links between South Africa and the Middle East, operating daily flights between Doha and Johannesburg’s O.R. International Airport.

Looking to capitalise on the intermittent grounding of its immediate competitors, Qatar Airways is looking to bolster its South African operations in February 2021.

The frequency of Johannesburg flights will increase to 18 per week. Qatar Airways will also increase the number of weekly Cape Town flights to five and Durban by three.

This expansion extends to other African regions, with 18 weekly flights resuming in Egypt, following a protracted period of dormancy, alongside new additions of Abuja, Accra and Luanda which joined Qatar Airways’ network at the end of 2020.

“We continue to demonstrate our commitment to the region by adding new routes and steadily increasing frequencies across the continent,” explained Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker. “With the resumption of Alexandria and Cairo, we will operate over 100 weekly flights to and from Africa with connections via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport, to our global network of over 120 destinations.”

In line with the international aviation industry’s health and safety standards, Qatar Airways requires that all passengers wear face masks throughout the journey. Depending on the destination, passengers will be required to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result to Qatar Airways before being allowed to board.

While Qatar Airways’ expansion offers greater mobility between South Africa and the Middle East, current travel restrictions prohibit most international visitors from entering Doha. While Hamad International Airport can still be used as a transit zone to catch connecting flights, only Qatari nationals, those with valid working exemptions and citizens belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are allowed return.

Additionally, any of these exempt travellers who have departed from South Africa will be subjected to a mandatory two-week quarantine period.

Connecting flights from Hamad International Airport, which can service South African flyers, extend to Europe, China, Brazil, and Australia. Flights are also extended to 14 airports in the United States (US) but South African will not be able to take advantage of these routes after 30 January 2021, due to a recently authorised travel ban.

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