It is clear there is demand for travel to resume to ‘Destination South Africa’ and a definitive indication that South Africa should open its borders and welcome back tourism.
“It’s time to put people back to work,” said CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. He spoke to Tourism Update this morning (September 10) in reaction to news that US carrier, United Airlines, would resume its three-weekly seasonal flights to Cape Town and introduce a daily non-stop flight between Newark and Johannesburg.
The new routes – set for spring 2021 in the US (March to June) – are subject to government approval. Tickets will be available for purchase on united.com and the United app in the coming weeks.
Patrick Quayle, United's Vice President of International Network and Alliances, said: “These routes also offer easy connections for customers travelling to South Africa from more than 50 US cities.”
Tshivhengwa said the airline would have based its decision to add flights to South Africa on queries from travellers. “In a post-COVID-19 world, people want to travel but they will be wary of big cities. South Africa offers the perfect solution, with natural socially distanced settings in nature and out in the bush.”
Based on this, he believes it is time to open up South Africa’s borders and ensure the country is ready to meet the demand.
CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, Chris Zweigenthal, agreed, noting in a recent opinion piece on Tourism Update that, as states begin to open borders, it was essential that South Africa did not fall too far behind the curve.
“We must stake our claim for business. While acknowledging that we have experienced a surge in COVID-19 infections, we have internationally benchmarked COVID-19 protocols in place for aviation, travel and tourism and we urge our government to trust our industry and to lift restrictions for travel,” he said.
Non-stop service to three new destinations in Africa
By late spring 2021, United will also introduce new services between Washington, and Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria in late spring of 2021.
According to Quayle, United will become the only US carrier serving Accra non-stop from Washington, DC, and the only airline to serve Lagos non-stop from Washington, DC with three weekly flights to each destination.
“The Washington metropolitan area has the second-largest population of Ghanaians in the United States, and Lagos is the largest Western African destination from the United States,” said Quayle.
Health and safety
“United is committed to putting health and safety at the forefront of every customer's journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness through its United CleanPlus programme,” said Quayle.
He said the airline had teamed up with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to redefine cleaning and health safety procedures, from check-in to landing and has implemented more than a dozen new policies, protocols and innovations designed with the safety of customers and employees in mind, including:
- Requiring all travellers – including crew members – to wear face coverings.
- Using HEPA filters – while airborne and during the entire boarding and deplaning process – to circulate air and remove up to 99.97% of airborne particles.
- Using electrostatic spraying before departure for enhanced cabin sanitation.
- Using ultraviolet lighting technology on pilot flight decks to further disinfect the aircraft interior.
- During check-in, requiring customers to acknowledge they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Offering customers a touchless baggage check-in experience.
- Boarding fewer customers at a time, from the back to the front of the aircraft, to allow for more social distancing.