Airport staff have been hard at work preparing to welcome back passengers as flights resume over the course of June under level 3 of lockdown regulations.
Ahead of its opening, transport minister Fikile Mbalula visited a largely deserted OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday to assess the measures put in place to protect airport staff and travellers.
Limited domestic air travel will be allowed for business and essential purposes, such as attending funerals, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day. Passengers will be required to produce a permit authorising their travel upon entering the airport building.
Passengers will be required to wear a mask at all times and physical distancing rules will apply throughout the airport. To assist with this, stickers on the floor mark the distance of 1.5m that you should keep from other passengers. Airport benches have been marked to indicate seats that should be left open.
Bag wrapping will now also be compulsory for all check-in luggage. To avoid congestion, additional bag wrap facilities have been placed throughout the airport.
If you need to stock up on supplies, a new feature to look out for is a "Covid-19 essentials" vending machine, which is filled with disposable masks, hand sanitiser gel, wipes and tissues.
Passengers are encouraged to check in online or make use of the check-in screens at the airport. For those passengers who require assistance or need to drop their bags, protective screens have been installed at all check-in counters and a no-touch policy has been implemented at all check-in and boarding counters.
Physical distancing rules will also apply when queuing to board an aircraft and boarding will be done in a controlled manner to allow passengers travelling the rear seats to board first.
To ensure safety on board, aircraft will be disinfected between flights and a high efficiency particulate air filter (Hepa) filter, which kills bacteria, will clean the air throughout the flight. No catering or magazines will be allowed on board.
People who are planning on travelling should bear in mind that these additional safety procedures will require more time and should arrive at the airport at least an hour earlier than usual.
Mbalula announced that airports will open under a phased approach. During the first phase, airports that will be allowed to open are OR Tambo International and Lanseria International in Gauteng, Cape Town International, and King Shaka International in KwaZulu-Natal.
Domestic airlines have plans in place to resume operations between these airports within the next few weeks.
Mbalula said the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) had approved the procedures that will be put in place at OR Tambo International as well as Cape Town International and is currently reviewing those to be implemented at King Shaka International. He will inspect Lanseria International later this week.
“These regulations and directives are there for the protection of all people and we expect absolute compliance,” said Mbalula.
“We understand the need to gradually open up the economy and we are balancing it with safety and good health. I’m confident that our airports will play a central role in reigniting the economy and reconnecting our economic hubs while strictly operating under these conditions.”