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South African Airways has confirmed it will immediately suspend all international operations until May 31st, casting fresh doubt over the future of the carrier.
Having already sought emergency funding and cut routes this year, the latest capacity cuts come in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the transmission of Covid-19.
The pandemic and attendant travel restrictions have resulted in a substantial decline in demand for air travel, the carrier said.
Following the declaration of the state of disaster, the South African government announced a travel ban earlier.
Arrivals from high risk countries, including South African citizens, are also to be subject to medical screening and quarantined for 21 days.
South African Airways operates in three markets that form part of countries listed in the travel ban as high-risk areas.
These are the United States (Washington DC and New York, JFK), the United Kingdom (London, Heathrow) and Germany (Frankfurt and Munich).
In addition, the carrier operates flights to Australia (Perth) and Brazil (São Paulo) which have not been declared high-risk.
However, all are now cancelled.
“In support of efforts by government to deal with this pandemic, and in the best interests of our crew, passengers and the public, we have decided to suspend all international flights until May 31st.
“It is all our responsibility, not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus,” said South African Airways acting chief executive, Zuks Ramasia.
“In addition, the increasing risks to our crew of contracting the virus including the possibility of being trapped in foreign destinations as a consequence of increasing travel bans cannot be ignored.
“We also recognise the fluidity in the conditions we operate in and the need to respond to these changes with speed, to this end we commit to keep all our stakeholders abreast of any changes on an ongoing basis,” concluded Ramasia.