Over the past two weeks, Qatar Airways has banned all travelers from South Africa on its flights out of the country. However, in two days, that is set to change. The airline is reinstating twice-daily passenger services out of Johannesburg and a daily service from Cape Town. All travelers affected by the ban may now rebook their tickets on these flights.
When news of a detected variant subsequently dubbed Omicron spread over the world a couple of weeks ago, many countries responded with a kneejerk reaction of reinstating travel restrictions from Southern Africa. This has prompted allegations of prejudice towards the region, particularly when it appeared that US ‘patient zero’ had not had any contact with the area.
Reports have now begun coming in suggesting that Omicron, while most likely more contagious, does not seem to be more dangerous than previous variants throughout the pandemic. As such, we are likely to see a repeal of the hastily instated bans. One of the first to backtrack is Qatar Airways.
Back online from December 12th
The Gulf nation’s flag carrier Qatar Airways will soon be accepting South African-based passengers on its flights out of Cape Town and Johannesburg again. The airline will lift the restrictions on December 12th, a little over two weeks after they were first announced.
“Qatar Airways has worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep flying within the ever-changing regulations across the globe, and it is particularly gratifying to once again be able to carry our South African customers to visit family and friends over the festive period or to enjoy a well-earned break,” Hendrik Du Preez, Qatar Airways Vice President for Africa, said as quoted by Southern Africa’s Travel News.
Also read: RwandaAir begins direct flights to Qatar
Two weeks worth of rebookings
Qatar has continued to fly to SA after news of the Omicron variant emerged and to carry people on the way there. However, it has not been able to accommodate departing South African travelers. The airline will now operate twice daily between Johannesburg and Doha and daily from Cape Town.
Qatar will operate both routes with one of its Boeing 777s. All passengers who were affected by the ban over the past couple of weeks may now rebook their tickets for one of the flights. The airline stopped accepting passengers from South Africa and Zimbabwe on November 26th.
With immediate effect, passengers will no longer be accepted for travel from South Africa and Zimbabwe on #QatarAirways flights, we will continue to review the situation on a daily basis as new information becomes available from the WHO.
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) November 26, 2021
Excessive reactions, industry says
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that governments’ response to the Omicron variant may further damage the already struggling airline industry’s recovery. IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, has also directly slammed the reaction of the UK, calling its measures, which placed Southern African countries on its ‘red list’, excessive.