Over the next two weeks, SAA will repatriate 7 000 foreign nationals trapped in South Africa since the national lockdown.

In a joint effort with the German government, the first repatriation flights for German citizens will leave tomorrow (April 3) evening from Johannesburg to Munich and from Cape Town to Frankfurt, says Louise Brugman, spokesperson for SAA’s business rescue practitioners.

Sources close to the operation say SAA will use two A340-600aircraft for the flights.

These are the first of several chartered repatriation flights that SAA will conduct to various international destinations, including Belgium and Brazil.

All passengers will converge at a central assembly point, from where busses will take them to the airports, where they will be screened prior to departure. Those who are COVID-19 positive or who present with flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to depart.

Swedish Ambassador Cecilia Julin says 300 Swedes have registered for the SAA repatriation flights to Frankfurt and Munich. Onward connections from Germany to Sweden are the responsibility ofeach passenger, as flights between Germany and Sweden are still operating. Cecilia warns that travelling on a fully booked flight is a risk for contagion. “There is nothing we can do about this, as the demand for seats is very high.”

Swiss Ambassador, Dr Nicolas Brühl, says a repatriation flight for Swiss nationals planned for tomorrow (April 3) fromCape Town to Zürich has been provisionally postponed to April 9 due to “insurmountable administrative hurdles”.

When all passenger air travel was suspended as part of the lockdown, several embassies approached SAA’s BRPs for the repatriation of their citizens, a process that required government support and an amendment of the Disaster Management Act.

Bilateral air service agreements governing charter flights between South Africa and the respective countries also had to be considered, says SAA Spokesman, Tlali Tlali.