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At last! The Qatar Airways confusion is over

Along with most of the Northern Hemisphere, Qatar Airways stopped servicing South Africans in late November when the Omicron virus first raised its head. The ban didn't last long with the airline announcing it would resume flights to South Africa on 12 December.
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Image source: Pixabay

Despite this December 10 announcement, the airline then began cancelling flights to South Africa after the proposed start date, much to everyone’s confusion.

Qatar has since deleted the earlier tweet announcing the re-opening of travel, but it’s changed its mind again, announcing that flights would resume on 13 January 2022.

The Middle East has been slow to venture back into southern Africa after the emergence of Omicron, despite European nations amending their original travel restrictions shortly after the ban. Many of South Africa's major travel connections in the UK, USA, Netherlands, and Germany led the charge.

Qatar flights to major centres are back on

Qatar Airways flights will travel between Doha, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, with passengers restricted to transit via Hamad International Airport.
The airline resumes with a schedule of 21 weekly flights to these major centres. The schedule includes two daily flights from Johannesburg, one daily flight from Cape Town, and four weekly flights from Durban.

If the flight times don’t quite suit your travel arrangements, there’s still the option of booking flights from Cape Town to Johannesburg with a domestic carrier, and travelling onward from there.

Qatar Airways was one of few international airlines that stuck to a reliable schedule during the height of the pandemic.

Both Hamad International Airport and Qatar Airlines, have a 5-star rating with regard to Covid safety measures. Some of the safeguards in place on Qatar airlines include:

  • Protective gowns, face masks, gloves, and eyewear for all cabin crew
  • Freely available hand sanitiser in the galley
  • Compulsory face masks and shields for all passengers
  • Sanitisation of all service equipment after each use
  • Pre-packaged, sanitised headsets
  • Total aircraft sanitisation after each flight
  • Advanced HEPA air filters
  • Extreme sanitisation of bedding and linen after each flight
  • An app in place of newspapers and magazines
  • Complementary protective kits containing masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser
  • UV cleaning of aircraft seats, cabins, and surfaces.

On top of all that, South Africa is still on the Qatari ministry of public health’s red list.

That means travellers must quarantine for two days on arrival in the city pending the outcome of a PCR test on arrival. The rule applies regardless of your vaccination status.

Travel to the UAE

Dubai’s three international airports have long been a gateway to hundreds of Asian, North American, and European destinations for South Africans. Hamad Airport alone offers access to 140 cities across the globe.

Up until now, Emirates and Qatar have been flying passengers into south Africa, but not out, with the exception of UAE citizens and their relatives.

Emirates resumed daily outbound flights to Johannesburg only on 10 January, while flights to Cape Town and Durban remain suspended until further notice

Etihad Airways expects to be back on track in February.

Other destinations now available to South Africans

The Covid situation fluctuates rapidly, but there is some good news for South Africans.

Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius recently announced the end of travel restrictions for South Africans with a few provisions on arrival.

Last week, the first Qantas flight in 21 months arrived at OR Tambo, bringing relief to some of the 110,000 people who usually travel between South Africa and Australia every year.

Only very few expatriation flights have taken place between South Africa and Australia since March 2020.

Going forward, the airline will offer three weekly direct flights from Johannesburg on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. However, the reprieve is restricted to Australian citizens and permanent residents, and skilled migrants, students, and family members with the relevant visa.

Australia initially planned to lift travel restrictions in July 2021, but new variants and increased safety measures pushed this back to October, then December, and finally April 2022.

Positive news for South African travel

While the November travel bans had a significant impact on peak holiday season travel in southern Africa, 2022 seems to hold a much brighter outlook with tickets for domestic flights in South Africa sold out on many routes.

As countries around the globe start to understand the inefficiency of travel bans against the spread of Covid, it’s hoped that things will continue to improve for the country’s beleaguered tourism industry.


12 Jan 2022 12:41