Emirates will resume passenger flights from Dubai to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday after temporarily suspending its service because of sudden travel restrictions.
South Africa’s discovery of the highly mutated Covid-19 variant, Omicron, has led to a flurry of flight cancellations and international travel bans. Travelers needing to leave, or return to, South Africa have faced uncertainty as airlines respond to swift and far-reaching restrictions imposed by their host nations.
Restrictions imposed on travelers from South Africa began to mount on Friday, spearheaded by the United Kingdom’s decision to suspend flights between the two countries and reimplement its mandatory quarantine requirement.
By Monday, almost 40 countries had imposed restrictions on travellers arriving from South Africa, with more than 10 international airlines servicing major routes grounding flights.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) suspended flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini. The country’s national carrier confirmed that Dubai’s Covid-19 Command and Control Centre (CCC) had imposed a travel ban prohibiting entry to any passengers who had have been in or connected through these countries in the last 14 days.
The sudden suspension of services, and lack of clarity concerning the resumption of flights, stranded anxious passengers in both countries.
Emirates announced on Tuesday that it would resume its passenger flights to South Africa on Wednesday.
“From 1 to 31 December, Emirates will operate passenger flights 4 times a week into Johannesburg. Due to current travel restrictions, we will not be carrying outbound passengers from Johannesburg,” the airline said in a statement on its website.
Emirates’ passenger operations to and from Durban and Cape Town will remain suspended “until further notice”.
Other international airlines planning to resume South African services on Wednesday include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. While these flights, operating at a reduced frequency, will assist in the repatriation of travellers, seats on planes departing South Africa will only be filled by returning British or Irish nationals, or travellers with residence rights in the UK.
Emirates, with its outbound flights from Johannesburg not carrying any passengers, has not yet detailed its repatriation efforts. This one-way service is of little help to travellers looking to return to Dubai. Emirates’ online booking platform shows no available flights from Johannesburg to Dubai.