(Photo by James D. Morgan / Getty Images)
- The Emirates ban on passenger flights from South Africa was originally scheduled to end on December 31, 2021.
- But in a notice to travel business partners, the UAE’s national airline announced an extension of the ban, with flights from Johannesburg now suspended until at least January 10.
- Its competitors in the region, Etihad and Qatar, are also restricting passenger travel from South Africa.
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Emirates was due to resume passenger flights from South Africa on the first day of 2022, but has now, in a notice to travel business partners, said it is extending its ban until at least January 10.
South Africa is still reeling from the effects of widespread travel bans imposed following the discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in late November. While major travel routes – like those to the UK, Germany and the US – have since reopened, travel to and through the Middle East remains tightly limited.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a ban on travelers from South Africa within 48 hours of Omicron’s first briefing. Its national carrier quickly followed suit, suspending all passenger flights to and from South Africa.
The ban, which exempted freight carriers, was scheduled to last through December, with Emirates later clarifying that it would carry passengers to, but not from, Johannesburg. Passenger operations to and from Durban and Cape Town remained suspended.
Just two days before the end of the flight ban, Emirates announced in a notice to trading partners that flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban would remain suspended until at least January 10.
This “new resumption date” would be subject to government approvals, according to the notice, reported by Travel News.
The Emirates online booking platform confirms this extension, with no Johannesburg-Dubai flight available before January 10.
In addition to extending the ban on passenger flights from South Africa, Emirates has added further restrictions on travelers from 10 other African countries, including Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Currently, only UAE nationals and first-degree relatives, who have stayed in or transited through Southern African countries in the last 14 days, are permitted to enter Dubai.
Emirates competitors are also delaying the resumption of passenger flights from South Africa, further restricting access to the Middle East and its transit hubs.
Qatar Airways originally planned to resume passenger flights from Johannesburg to Doha on December 12, but extended its suspension by one month. Flights from South Africa and some neighboring countries will not resume until January 12. Qatar Airways’ flight status tracker indicates that all flights from Johannesburg to Doha have been canceled or rescheduled until at least January 8.
Like Emirates, Qatar Airways has so far operated cargo flights to and from South Africa, with a limited passenger schedule to Johannesburg.
Passenger flights to and from South Africa aboard Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways are not expected to resume until February.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)