As the country moves to level 3 lockdown from June 1, many airlines have decided to take to the skies to cater to the domestic travel market. 

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed during a media briefing on Saturday that the resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases. 

He also revealed that limited domestic air travel for business purposes will be allowed, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorisation based on the reason for travel.

South African Airways (SAA) said in a press statement last week that it is retaining its domestic schedule with effect from mid-June 2020. The airline will focus on ensuring operational readiness to resume flights once permissible.

SAA said the position will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The airline cancelled all planned scheduled flights on its regional and international services until the end of June 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Philip Saunders, SAA’s Chief Commercial Officer, said in the statement: “Our operational preparedness is underlined by the significant role the airline has played in global repatriations to and from South Africa and by our desire to serve the domestic market.”

FlySafair will prepare to resume a reduced service from June 15 with ticket sales expected to open in the next week, the airline revealed in a press statement. This follows the airline’s announcement last week that it was unlikely to fly during level 3 unless the government offers support. 

However, following the announcement by the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula over the weekend, and the reintroduction of air travel will take place in three phases, the airline has had a change of heart.

Kirby Gordon, Chief Marketing Officer at FlySafai, said the airline will recommence operations in the next few weeks. 

“We remain concerned about the feasibility of operating under the prescribed restrictions, but we cannot leave our staff unpaid any longer, and we feel obligated to do our part in reopening the South African economy,” he said.

The airline is expecting to operate between 20 and 26 flights a day, with the possible exception of Saturdays.

“We have a schedule which we would like to implement ready, but we need slot approval from Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) before we can publish it. These schedules are dependent on the limitations to the timing and number of flights that FlySafair can operate,” he added. 

FlySafair, which previously operated 25 percent of the seating capacity in the domestic market, is planning to operate on the following routes, including Johannesburg to Cape Town, Johannesburg to Durban, and Cape Town to Durban.  

Mango Airlines has not yet revealed its plans for level 3. They said on Twitter on May 29: “Dear Guests, We will issue an official statement regarding flight bookings once the Minister of Transport makes his address tomorrow. We will be able to advise Guests on any questions regarding flight bookings.” (sic). 

According to its PR company, the airline will reveal its plans in due course. Comair is currently under business rescue, and will only operate scheduled services by November.