Flights cancelled South Africa lockdown
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  • Comair, which operates Kulula and British Airways in South Africa, has cancelled its July flight schedule.
  • This comes after LIFT Airline, which first took to the skies in December 2020, announced that it would halt all its flights from Monday 5 July.
  • These cancellations stem from new lockdown regulations which prohibit leisure travel in and out of Gauteng.
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South Africa’s Comair, which operates Kulula and British Airways locally, is the second domestic airline company to cancel its July flights due to the new lockdown regulations which ban leisure travel to and from Gauteng.

Comair announced on Friday that all Kulula and British Airways flights would be temporarily suspended from Monday 5 July. The airline company said it intended to restart flights on 30 July but that its resumption of services depended on lockdown regulations being lightened and Covid-19 infection rates decreasing in Gauteng.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe under the circumstances is the right course of action for our loyal customers and employees,” explained Comair CEO, Glenn Orsmond.

Comair is the second airline to abandon its July flight schedule. LIFT, South Africa’s newest airline which first took to the skies in December 2020, announced on Wednesday that it had decided to cancel flights from 5 July, with the intention to restart on 1 August.

LIFT operates a single route between Cape Town International Airport and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. The airline drew attention by launching in the middle of a pandemic – at a time when the aviation sector continues to be battered by a severe downturn in domestic and international travel.

South Africa’s move to Adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown at the end of June has worsened the situation for domestic airlines, which rushed to adapt to new travel restrictions.

READ | SA airlines scramble to adjust flights amid Gauteng travel ban – scrapping penalty fees

The third wave is being driven by infections in Gauteng – accounting for more than 60% of the country’s active caseload – and a decision was taken to ban leisure travel to and from the province under the adjusted lockdown regulations.

Airlines have been impacted by these new travel restrictions with Johannesburg’s OR Tambo – the busiest airport in Africa – being restricted to passengers on work-related trips. In response, domestic carriers have adjusted their flight schedules and dropped penalty fees for last-minute cancellations.

And while other airlines can still operate to airports outside of OR Tambo, LIFT, with its single route, has decided to cancel its flights from 5 July to 31 July.

“People are choosing to stay at home for now. Understandably so,” explained the CEO of LIFT, Jonathan Ayache in announcing the airline’s decision.

“Our crew are also better off staying put until this wave recedes and the vaccination rollout reaches critical mass.”

Flights booked up to Sunday 4 July will continue as planned, according to the airline. LIFT hopes to take to the skies again on 1 August and bookings from this date onwards remain open.

Ticket-holders who have booked to fly in July can rebook to fly before Sunday or after 1 August. Those booked to fly can also cancel their flights through LIFT’s online flight management portal. The value of the cancelled ticket will be transferred to a LIFT wallet which can be used to purchase another ticket in future.

Rebooking and cancelling will not carry a penalty fee but a difference in fare may apply to flight changes.

“In our first 7 months of operation, we operated over 1,150 flights and transported more than 150,000 passengers with a 97% on-time performance rate and fantastic feedback on our service and the overall experience. It’s a frustrating time for South Africans,” said Ayache.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

This article has been updated to include the announcement by Comair.

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