South African Post Office
(Photo by Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)
  • The South African Post Office has not sent mail to Australia for more than a year.
  • This due to Australia’s tight travel restrictions, which have effectively grounded most inbound flights to that country.
  • But a one-off repatriation flight operated by Qantas gives the Post Office a chance to clear its Australian backlog.
  • The flight will depart from Johannesburg on 16 August.
  • But the deadline for posting is 11 August because mail still needs to reach the international sorting centre at OR Tambo International Airport, where it will undergo final checks before flying.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The South African Post Office (Sapo) will send mail to Australia for the first time in more than a year thanks to a one-off repatriation flight operated by Qantas, due to depart from Johannesburg on 16 August. The deadline for posting is Wednesday 11 August. 

The last time mail was delivered by Sapo to Australia was in March 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic grounded airlines and caused serious disruptions to the delivery of international cargo. Although South Africa’s transport regulations have since eased, allowing for the delivery of in-bound mail, Australia’s ongoing travel restrictions – grounding almost all international flights into that country – has added to Sapo’s backlog.

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This year-long impasse will come to end in August, when Qantas operates flight QF63. Along with Australian citizens and permanent residents looking to get back home, mail handled by Sapo will also be aboard this repatriation flight.

“The Australian airline Qantas will do the repatriation flight QF63 departing Johannesburg on 16 August 2021,” a Sapo spokesperson told Business Insider South Africa on Monday, adding that outbound mail would need to be posted before 11 August.

“The deadline for posting is earlier because the mail has to reach the international sorting centre at OR Tambo International Airport in time, where it must be scanned by customs for legality of the contents, packed into containers and loaded on the flight.”

Although dealing with a backlog of undelivered mail to Australia, Sapo “does not expect to exceed the total quantity of mail items that can be transported.”

Towards the end of 2020, Sapo’s outbound services were limited to just 25 countries due to international travel restrictions. This number had grown to almost 40 by the end of June 2021. Despite more country’s resuming flights to and from South Africa, the post office has warned of longer delivery times for international mail.

“International transport connections are not running optimally owing to reduced flights, and therefore the delivery time for international items is longer than normal,” Sapo explained.

Qantas, which is expecting see a loss of $1.5 billion (R22 billion) in 2021, has continuously pushed back its international restart date due to Australia’s right travel bubble. Apart from domestic flights – and limited services to New Zealand and surrounding islands – Qantas has been absent from the international space for more than a year.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce recently revealed the airline’s plans to resume international flights in December.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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