Your top 5 travel worries answered as South Africa reopens more airports

As more domestic airports reopen under 'alert level 3' regulations on Wednesday, the thought of getting into an airplane can be daunting to travellers worried about staying safe when flying. Be it air cabin quality, or whether you'll need quarantine pre or post your trip, here are the answers to some of those worries.

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced Monday that in addition to the original four main airports in South Africa that are currently operating unde ‘alert level 3‘ regulations, the following domestic airports will reopen from Wednesday, July 01:

• Bram Fischer International Airport

• Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport

• Pietermaritzburg Airport

• Port Elizabeth International Airport

• Richards Bay Airport

• Skukuza Airport

• Upington International Airport

He added that meals will once again be available onboard. These meals must be pre-packed and placed in front of the seat for each passenger before the passenger boards the aircraft to minimise movement during flight.

It looks like business travel is slowly but surely returning to normal. Or is it? Oz Desai, GM Flight Centre Business Travel, takes a closer look at travellers’ most pressing concerns.

  1. Health and Safety

Am I putting the health of my family at risk if I travel? After being told to ‘stay home and stay safe’ for the last few months, it can feel quite daunting to get onto an airplane. 

You can rest assured, the stringent safety measures have been put in place at all the airports that are operational to mitigate any health risks, including: only allowing air ticket holders into the terminal buildings (drop off and pick up only permitted outside); health screening (including temperature checks) on entry;  strict social distancing measures (including self-scanning of boarding passes); and deep-cleaning and frequent sanitisation of terminal buildings and aircraft. 

You can protect yourself by adhering to the protocols and measures put in place – including wearing a mask for the duration of your journey and using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Always keep a travel-sized (max 100ml) bottle on you.

  1. Cabin air quality

The old ‘recycled air’ worry. Even pre-pandemic, travellers were concerned about coming down with colds and flu after a plane trip. 

South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula has assured the travelling public that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on an aircraft is much lower than in other confined spaces and public transport. All aircraft are fitted with high-level HEPA filters that eliminate all viruses, including the coronavirus.

According to FlySafair, HEPA filters successfully remove 99.999% of even the smallest viruses, including those measuring just 0.01 micrometres. The coronavirus family measures between 0.08 and 0.16 micrometres and therefore extracted by the HEPA filters very effectively.

  1. Masks

Will I need to wear a mask for the entire trip? Yes. Unfortunately, HEPA filters don’t negate the need for a mask. Think of it as just another layer of protection – both for you and others. 

Understandably, many travellers still balk at the idea of wearing a mask for any length of time. But as the weeks have gone by, masks have evolved and you can now get your hands on masks, which are designed to assist air flow, prevent fogging of glasses and sit comfortably on your face. 

  1. Documentation required

Desai says that business travellers can expect a little more admin in terms of the documentation required: “Passengers must have the correct travel documents with them before leaving home, this includes your ID and a permit to travel for business.”

A professional travel consultant or travel management company like FCBT will be able to help you navigate the new regulations with ease. 

“Unfortunately permits and permissions are necessary – at least for the foreseeable future,” says Desai, “Luckily TMCs are on hand to help, and can advise travellers on the documentation that is required, the different airline regulations and requirements as well as the safety guidelines put in place by hotels and other accommodation establishments.”

  1. The Question of Quarantine

Perhaps the biggest concern of all, is the idea that you would have to spend time in quarantine pre or post a trip. 

Although, not an issue when travelling within South Africa’s borders (unless a health check before departure warrants further investigation and self-quarantine), once international travel opens the threat of quarantine may well cause anxiety levels to rise!

Some countries will allow self-quarantine, others will force passengers to go to government-directed facilities or pre-identified hospitals. For an example, the UK is now enforcing a two-week quarantine period and passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train – including UK nationals – will be asked to provide an address where they will self-isolate for 14 days.

Travellers will also need to understand South Africa’s approach when returning from ‘high-risk’ countries.

*For the latest brand focused South African news, travel and tourism updates, make sure to visit NOWinSA daily

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