South Africa UAE Emirates flights
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images),ØSì)XM
  • The United Arab Emirates is "aware that there's no scientific basis for their decision" to maintain its travel ban on South Africa.
  • This is according to South Africa's department of international relations and cooperation, which says it has, and will continue to, engage with the UAE.
  • The travel ban has suspended Emirates flights out of Johannesburg, cutting out a key connection hub in Dubai.
  • The suspension has been extended at least twice before and although the airline is taking bookings for Sunday 16 January, it couldn't give Business Insider SA a guarantee that these flights would be honoured.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recognises that its Omicron-induced ban on South African travellers is unscientific, according to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), which believes that restrictions "will be reviewed soon".

International bans imposed on travellers from South Africa in the wake of Omicron's discovery in late November are easing. Since the peak of the Omicron-panic in mid-December – at a time when around 90 countries had imposed “discriminatory” and “infective” travel bans on South Africa and its neighbours – major routes have since reopened.

The United Kingdom, one of the first countries to relegate South Africa to its restrictive red list following the Omicron announcement, was also one of the first to rescind its travel ban.

And as with the enforcing of travel restrictions, the easing of these same bans triggers a domino effect, although with the latter occurring at a much slower pace, to the detriment of South Africa's already beleaguered tourism industry.

The United States and Canada have reopened to travellers from South Africa, as has roughly a third of Europe, including key destinations like Germany and France. Island getaways like Mauritius and the Seychelles have joined the growing tide of countries scrapping travel bans and mandatory quarantine requirements.

But the Middle East remains largely off limits to South African travellers, which is particularly problematic for those needing to return to work or reunite with family in the UAE. This ongoing travel ban has also suspended Emirates flights out of Johannesburg with no option to transit through the international connection hub of Dubai.

Emirates' ban on passenger flights leaving South Africa – the airline still operates a limited service into Johannesburg – was initially due to lapse at the end of December. This suspension was then extended until 10 January. After failing to resume flights, Emirates refused to indicate a return date, although its online booking platform indicates flights operating from Johannesburg from Sunday 16 January.

Emirates refused to comment when asked by Business Insider South Africa if it could confirm this date of return and guarantee ticket holders – or prospective ticket holders – that these bookings would be honoured.

"We have been and continue to engage the UAE regarding the travel restrictions," DIRCO spokesperson Clayson Monyela told Business Insider SA on Wednesday.

"They [the UAE] are aware that there's no scientific basis for their decision. We believe that the decision will be reviewed soon."

South Africa isn't alone. Emirates also recently announced that it would not be carrying passengers out of Angola, Guinea, Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia. 

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