South Africa’s Testing Requirement Leads Emirates To Cancel Flights

It was a case of crossed wires in South Africa over the weekend as uncertainty over new quarantine and self-isolation guidelines caused Emirates to cancel a flight to Durban. There are reports online that new South African Government regulations lead to the canceled flight. Now it seems the problem is not much the regulations, more the interpretation of them.

Emirates canceled its maiden return flight to Durban on Sunday. Photo: Emirates

Conflicting reports and confusion over rules saw one Durban bound flight canceled

Reports over the weekend suggested the South African Government was now requiring all airline crews to self-isolate upon arrival. This caused Emirates to ax its recently reinstated services to South Africa. The reports said the new South African Government regulation now saw airline crews treated like normal passengers.

As this article goes to publication, some more clarity around the issue is emerging.

Over the weekend, Dubai-based media carried reports the new regulation lead to Emirates axing its freshly resumed South African flights. That included Sunday’s flight to Durban.

If correct, it looked like proving a very brief return to South Africa for Emirates. The airline only resumed flights there days ago. Emirates started flying again to Capetown and Johannesburg last Thursday. The first flight to Durban should have taken off on Sunday.

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Durban Airport terminal. Photo: Kieron Thwaites via Wikimedia Commons

However, according to a clarification issued by the South African-based eNCA news website late on Sunday, it’s all a bit of a misunderstanding. The problem was there was “confusion” about the screening protocols for airline crews. At least, that’s according to Terence Delomoney, GM at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport.

“I think the entire industry is getting accustomed to the regulations and in this particular case and regulation is how the crew gets screened, and the regulations around that and obviously Emirates was supposed to fly into Durban today, and there were challenges in how they would comply to that regulation,” Mr Delomoney told eNCA.

There are now hasty negotiations underway to ensure this doesn’t happen again and Emirates recently stated that flights will stay reinstated.

Emirates is in talks with the South African Government to clarify the matter. Photo: Emirates Newsroom

South Africa is open again to travelers from selected low-risk countries

While South Africa is allowing international travelers in, it isn’t carte blanche. There are strict rules and regulations in place. Emirates has a comprehensive summary of entry requirements for all its destinations on its website. Emirates says that from October 1, international travel is allowed into South Africa from countries with a low rate of COVID-19 infection and transmission.

All arriving passengers must have a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, obtained not more than 72 hours before travel. The South African Government published a list of high-risk countries on September 30, and there are around 60 nations listed.

The United Arab Emirates is on the list. Running this story backward, it seems a view emerged that airline crew couldn’t enter South Africa without going into self-isolation if they came from a designated high-risk country.

Reportedly, the South African Government is keen for Emirates and other foreign carriers to stick around. The airlines are talking with the South African Government to get “clarity” around the issue. That clarity is likely to come quite soon, and flights look set to continue.