Emirates And Virgin Atlantic Extend South Africa Flight Suspension

Emirates and Virgin Atlantic have extended their bans on flights to and from South Africa due to the mutant COVID strain circulating in the country. Emirates has suspended flights until February 28th, while Virgin Atlantic may not resume flights until April.

Emirates 777-300ER
Emirates and Virgin Atlantic are amongst several carriers suspending South African flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Flights will be suspended until the end of February

Emirates initially imposed a 12-day ban on January 15th before extending it on January 27th. With UAE authorities still upholding restrictions on travelers from South Africa, Emirates has no choice but to keep its ban in place. Under current UAE restrictions, anyone who has visited or connected via South Africa in the last 14 days is not allowed into the country. Emirates said in a statement,

“Emirates’ flights to South Africa will remain suspended until 28 February 2021, in line with recent government directives that restrict the entry of travelers originating from South Africa, into the UAE.”

Virgin Atlantic, Manchester, Pakistan
Virgin Atlantic’s suspension of South Africa flights could last a lot longer due to UK travel restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

Virgin Atlantic may find its own suspension extending into April due to strict travel restrictions in the UK. British Airways recently announced it had suspended all South Africa flights until April 16th, suggesting a similar timeframe for Virgin. The airline has officially suspended flights until the end of February, but the ban may be in place a lot longer. A spokesperson told Tourism Update,

“We are keeping a close eye on updates from the UK with regard to the imposed travel restrictions. There is, regretfully, currently no end date… We have canceled flights until the end of February, and our intention is to restart as soon as these restrictions are lifted.”

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Several airlines have suspended South Africa flights

Since December, many carriers have suspended flights in and out of South Africa due to concerns over the highly infectious South African 501Y.V2 COVID variant. Airlines including KLM, British Airways and Turkish Airlines have temporarily ceased flights as governments worldwide impose travel restrictions.

British Airways A380 Comair 737 Cape Town Getty
British Airways doesn’t plan to resume South Africa flights until April. Photo: Getty Images

However, a handful of prominent airlines are still operating flights to and from the country, including Qatar Airways, Air France and Ethiopian Airlines. With authorities increasingly tightening restrictions on South Africa, there’s every chance these carriers may announce their own flight suspensions in the coming days.

Emirates will ramp up flights in the region

Although Emirates cannot fly directly to South African cities, it can still operate flights to other countries in the region. The carrier is increasing the frequency of flights to Zimbabwe and Zambia, with travelers then able to continue onwards to South Africa. From February 6th, Emirates will operate four flights a week between Dubai and Harare via Lusaka.

Emirates And Virgin Atlantic Extend South Africa Flight Suspension
Emirates has done well to adapt its flight schedule in the face of travel restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

The UK government added the UAE to its ‘red list’ last week, banning all direct flights from the country. Although Emirates isn’t able to operate its Dubai to UK flights, it is perfectly within its rights to fly the other way, and this is exactly what the carrier has done. While demand for UK to Dubai flights will still be relatively strong, the same can’t be said for one-way flights to South Africa.

Do you agree with the strict travel ban on South Africa flights? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.