lufthansa
Lufthansa, flight LH 572 lands at OR Tambo International airport. (Supplied)

Lufthansa became the first international airline to resume its scheduled service to South Africa, after government lifted the international travel ban for leisure travellers on Thursday.

Flight LH 572 from Frankfurt landed at OR Tambo International airport on Thursday morning, just hours after the ban was lifted. 

While Lufthansa conducted repatriation flights during the six-month lockdown in South Africa, this is the first flight aimed at business and leisure travellers. 

South Africa closed its borders in March, as part of its lockdown to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the reopening of South Africa's borders for leisure travellers in mid-September, and immediately cautioned that there may be restrictions for travel to and from some countries, "based on the latest scientific data we can get on those countries". 

A full list of "high-risk" countries on South Africa’s so-called red list was announced on Wednesday. Leisure travellers from these regions will not be allowed to enter the country for now. The list will be reviewed every two weeks. 

Everyone travelling to SA will be required to show a recent, negative test for the coronavirus, and must have travel insurance in place.

See also: No UK or US tourists: Here is South Africa’s full red list of countries

While its neighbours - including the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Austria - are on the red list, German leisure travellers, along with those from another key tourism market, China, are free to visit South Africa. 

Two key tourism markets for South Africa - the UK and the US - remain on the red list. 

"Without them we have to remain cautious about international tourism,"  says Graham Wood, chief operating officer of hospitality at the hotel group Sun International. "Germany and China are key partners for us but it will take a while for both of these markets to bounce back to pre-lockdown levels," 

Lufthansa
Lufthansa, flight LH 572 lands at OR Tambo International airport. (Supplied)


“This is truly an important moment," German Ambassador in South Africa, Martin Schäfer, said of the first flight on Thursday.

"After more than six months, international commercial flights are back and here to stay. I am glad that German carrier Lufthansa heeded the call from South Africa without any hesitation, and proudly flies the crane back to Johannesburg just eight hours after the lifting of the flight ban.”

"Lufthansa is delighted to be at the forefront of the resumption of commercial travel into South Africa and proud to reconnect South Africa to Germany with the first international long haul flight to land in South Africa on the day the travel ban is lifted," says Dr. André Schulz, general manager of Lufthansa in Southern and East Africa.

“South Africa remains an attractive destination for both German business travellers and holidaymakers and as Germany moves into Winter, we look forward to bringing visitors back to South Africa and helping to boost the very important tourism sector again."

Visitors from Germany will have to self-isolate on their return, as South Africa is still not on its list of low-risk countries.

See also: Even with open borders, SA remains red-listed by many countries, and tourists may not come

Lufthansa has reopened its three weekly connections between Johannesburg and Frankfurt as well as two weekly connections between Cape Town and Frankfurt as of 1 October. All flights can be booked immediately through the usual distribution channels and the airlines' website www.lufthansa.com

Foreign airlines - including Emirates, KLM and Air France - have started to list flights to and from South Africa in October. .

See also: Flights out of SA are popping up fast – and going pretty cheap. Even from Cape Town.

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