South African regional carrier Airlink has suspended flights to its neighbor Angola. The airline has shut its Johannesburg-Luanda route with effect from today, November 29th. The decision comes as the new Omicron variant spreads through South Africa and the region. To support returning residents, Airlink will run a series of scheduled repatriation flights.
In response to the Angola government’s new restrictions, Airlink has suspended its Johannesburg-Luanda service. The carrier has asked affected travelers to contact their agents or Airlink directly to discuss new options. In a statement, Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster said,
“While we are disappointed on behalf of our customers who are being inconvenienced, we must respect the decision by the Angolan authorities. However, we look forward to resuming our regular service as soon as possible.”
However, if you’re looking to return to South Africa or Angola from the other nation, Airlink has a plan to get everyone home. The airline will fly between Johannesburg and Luanda on November 30th and December 5th to repatriate nationals and residents. After December 5th, the airline will operate repatriations flights every Thursday and Sunday.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Angola closes its border
While the world’s attention has been on major hubs closing their border, there has been panic with southern Africa too. Angola shares a border with Botswana, where the variant likely first emerged, and has bustling connectivity to South Africa. To prevent the variant from spreading within its borders, the country is moving quickly to seal its border.
With effect from today, Angola has suspended entry from South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. This locks off the country from most of its neighbors and will likely lead to the need for several repatriation services and strict quarantine rules.
Travel set back
Angola’s travel ban is just the latest in a series of restrictions that have kicked in the last five days. The Omicron variant has now been detected across Asia, North America, and especially Europe, in addition to Africa. With evidence mounting that the variant spreads faster than the previously feared Delta variant, nations are locking down borders quickly. The larger fear is also that the variant is vaccine-resistant, a subject that is under study by scientists.
Given the possibility of re-imposing lockdowns and pressure on the healthcare system, countries have gone for a “take no risks” approach. The vaccine rollout has been the only way to restart everyday life and travel safely, and any risks to that can be catastrophic. For now, travelers, the aviation industry, and everyone is waiting with bated breath over how dangerous Omicron truly is.
What do you think about Angola’s decision to close borders? Have you been affected by new restrictions? Let us know in the comments!