South African Airways suspends regional flights amid coronavirus spread

The South African Airways (SAA) on Friday announced the suspension of regional flights due to a knock-on effect of the cancellation of international flights amid the COVID-19 spread.

Earlier Friday, the national flag carrier suspended all international flights with immediate effect until May 21 to support the government’s travel ban aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. As a direct consequence of the suspension of international flights, there was an immediate drastic reduction of demand for African regional flights, the airline said in a statement. The SAA is a network carrier, which means that a large part of the regional booking demand is fed by passengers who travel to or from international destinations, the statement said.

As the suspension of international flights has crippled the SAA’s operation of its normal network, operating regional flights couldn’t be commercially viable, the airline said. “This decision means that (the) SAA will only continue to render services on its domestic route between Johannesburg and Cape Town,” the airline said.

As of Friday, the number of coronavirus cases in South Africa has surged to 202, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. The country reported its first case on March 5 and has seen the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases among Sub-Saharan countries so far.

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