Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has called on the aviation industry to ensure that safety regulations are strictly adhered to as the economy further reopens.
Under level two lockdown regulations, all international passenger flights are prohibited. A number of domestic passenger flights are currently operating.
Mbalula on Saturday inspected the OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng and King Shaka Airport in Durban.
“I want to urge all the airlines to observe the regulations and the measures that we have put into place. We are also priding ourselves that the measures have passed the test of time. We are opening up the economy with all the measures, this place is going to be busy again. But when it gets busy, it must find us ready. It does mean that when the regulations are being slowed down, we must abandon certain things. It’s a new life.”
South Africans are regaining their trust in airlines and statistics show an increase in domestic air travel. That’s according to the Chief Operating Officer of the Airports Company South Africa, Fundi Sithebe who was speaking at OR Tambo International Airport.
She accompanied Mbalula on his inspection of the OR Tambo and King Shaka Airports as well as domestic flights after he received complaints that some airlines do not adhere to the COVID-19 regulations.
Sithebe says there are 97 percent fewer passengers compared to last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She says passengers are slowly regaining confidence in air travel.
“Definitely the numbers are growing. The airports are safe. We saw in June, 30 000 passengers for this particular airport. That’s departing and arriving. We saw an increase in July, which is why I’m saying there is definitely an increase in passenger confidence, going to 80 000. Now in the month of August, it dropped slightly to 70 000. We are prepared and we welcome all the passengers to come through in their numbers.”
Passengers urged to prepare for flights before leaving home
The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) has urged passengers to prepare for their flights before leaving home and to arrive at the airport more than two hours before their flights. This as 18 of the country’s airports are permitted to operate.
Mbalula in August announced that four more airports will be opened under alert level 2 lockdown. The four that were announced are Mthatha Airport in the Eastern Cape, Hoedspruit in Limpopo, Phalaborwa Airport in Limpopo, and Margate Airport in KwaZulu-Natal.
Making the announcement of the reopening of the airports, Mbalula said that air travel is important to the country’s efforts to gradually open economic activity. The Civil Aviation Authority will be responsible for ensuring compliance with safety and health measures.
“Despite the movement to Alert Level 2, we will continue on the same trajectory until every one of our airports meets the strict protocols,” said Mbalula.
ACSA Group Executive for Corporate Affairs Refentse Shinners says the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry has been devastating.
“Passengers are encouraged to do as much of the journey preparation at home. Things like booking your flight online, checking in online, printing your boarding pass. Now passengers are expected to scan their own boarding pass. The impact on the aviation industry has been quite dire. From April 2020, we have seen a decrease in passenger numbers of 70% across the continent. For the year, as ACSA we have 50 percent reduction in passenger volume.”
Minister Fikile Mbalula announces transport regulations under Alert Level 2: