BA Flies UK And Ireland Rugby Team To South Africa Despite Red List

Yesterday, British Airways flew a 37-strong team of rugby players from the UK and Ireland to South Africa. The flight comes ahead of a tour where eight games will be played against six local rugby teams. The trip comes despite South Africa remaining on the UK Government’s red list.

British Airways, Rugby Team, South Africa
British Airways flew 37 rugby players from Edinburgh to Johannesburg. Photo: British Airways

It seems that sports are once again getting underway as the world looks to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, Europe is currently in the midst of the Euro 2020 football tournament, meaning teams and fans are journeying across the continent. Now, a team from the UK and Ireland is flying further afield.

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Flying 11 hours south

Seeing a British Airways Boeing 777 at Edinburg Airport is a relatively rare sight. Even rarer would be seeing that flight heading to South Africa. Yet, yesterday, precisely this happened. At 15:04, G-STBH departed its London Heathrow home, touching down in Edinburgh at 16:30.

British Airways, Rugby Team, South Africa
The team is flying to South Africa for a series of eight rugby games. Photo: British Airways

While BA’s Boeing 767s were a regular feature on domestic flights, the same can’t be said about the Boeing 777. The seven-year-old aircraft had flown to Edinburgh to pick up the 37 strong British & Irish Lions Rugby team. The flight departed Edinburgh, as this had been the side of a game with Japan earlier in the day.

British Airways, Rugby Team, South Africa
The flight took 11 hours and 14 minutes. Photo:

The aircraft had been supposed to depart from Edinburgh Airport (EDI) at 19:00, according to However, the flight didn’t get underway as planned, eventually taking to the skies at 21:13. The flight south to South Africa lasted 11 hours and 14 minutes, touching down at 09:27 this morning.

Commenting on the flight, British Airways CEO, Sean Doyle, said,

“We are honoured to be flying The British & Irish Lions to South Africa ahead of their Tour. After a difficult year, we look forward to uniting the nation through sport and cheering them on. From everyone at British Airways, we wish them the best of luck and hope to carry them home as champions.”

The team’s games will be played in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town. British Airways also has a plan to get the team around while they’re in South Africa. Its franchise partner Comair, who uses the British Airways livery, will handle the domestic flights. Comair has a handful of 737 MAX aircraft in the British Airways livery.

British Airways, Rugby Team, South Africa
The airline’s franchise partner, Comair, will ferry the team around South Africa. Photo: Boeing

Red list country

South Africa is currently on the United Kingdom Government’s red list. The government’s official stance on traveling to such countries is,

“You should not travel to red list countries or territories.”

According to the government’s website, elite sportspeople who have been in a red list country aren’t generally granted an exemption to the mandatory ten-day hotel quarantine on return unless they “are participating in a significant sporting event which is listed in Schedule 11 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021”. This rugby tournament is not listed in the latest version of Schedule 11, unlike the UEFA Euro 2020 competition.

Did you see the Boeing 777 at Edinburgh Airport? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below.