Good News For Emirates? UAE Reopens To South African Travelers

The UAE has officially reopened travel from South Africa this week. Following a seven-month ban, the country is opening its border to fully vaccinated passengers along with strict testing requirements. The news will be a huge boost to Emirates, which is ramping up flights in September and has signed several new partnerships in the country.

Emirates Boeing 777-31H(ER) A6-EQE
Emirates has already ramped up flights after the UAE lifted its ban on transit passengers in early August. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Ready to go

The UAE is officially lifting all of its travel bans with effect from today, 30th August. The country will now allow passengers who are fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine to enter the country after testing. This means vaccinated South Africans will finally be able to travel to the UAE, ending a seven-month-long travel ban.

Tourists and other visas will once again be issued to South Africans who are vaccinated from today onwards. This is good news for thousands of passengers who have been unable to travel since January and for Emirates, which has a major presence in the country. So what will passengers require to enter the UAE?

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER
Emirates flies to three cities in South Africa, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. Photo: Emirates

After successfully getting their visa, or if you are exempt, travelers must take an RT-PCR test 48 hours before departure. Once this is negative, passengers also have to take a rapid PCR test at the airport within six hours of taking off. Finally, in the UAE, travelers have to take one last PCR test to explore freely.

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Not easy

Despite the easing of restrictions, only a few will be able to take advantage of the easing. South Africa’s shortage of vaccines means less than 10% of the population is fully vaccinated and only 15.4% have gotten one dose. This means only 9.6% of the population will be eligible at this time, unless travelers were vaccinated outside the country.

The UAE’s easing also comes as South Africa is in the midst of another wave of cases. This means most travel will be tightly restricted as countries look to protect against variants. This means Emirates may not have the blockbuster traffic it was hoping for with the lifting of UAE border restrictions.

Airlink Jet
South African aviation has been struggling as the country enacts restrictions to curb the spread of COVID. Photo: Emirates

From September onwards, Emirates will be flying double daily 777 services to Johannesburg and five-times weekly flights to Cape Town. This was the schedule before the UAE’s easing of border restrictions, which means there is room for Emirates to expand its weekly flights and bring forward the resumption to Durban (currently set for 31st October).

However, given the factors currently, the airline could stick to its already busy schedule for September and October. The coming days will tell us more about the demand for travel and further decisions about schedules.


The UAE’s decision to reopen all travel is a major step toward normalcy in air travel and comes at a crucial time. Despite rising cases in several countries, the country believes it can balance infections and reopen the tourism-heavy economy. The world will be watching and hoping that this strategy works.

What do you think about the easing of the South Africa ban? Let us know in the comments!