Covid-19: SAA cancels scores of flights as demand for air travel declines

18 March 2020 - 11:46 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
With a decline in demand due to the coronavirus, SAA has had to cancel flights and release some staff.
With a decline in demand due to the coronavirus, SAA has had to cancel flights and release some staff.
Image: 4045qd/

SAA has resorted to grounding aircraft, releasing staff and cancelling flights as the coronavirus pandemic soars.

On Wednesday the airline said in the light of the substantial fall in demand for air travel, it had reviewed its flight schedule and had decided to operate flights only in circumstances where its load factors and other business considerations weighed in favour of scheduling flights.

Philip Saunders, SAA COO, said that from March 17-31, SAA had cancelled 162 flights – 38 international and 124 regional (continental).

The airline is continuing to provide a service on the domestic, regional and international networks for passengers for whom travel is essential and cannot be avoided.

Timelapse video shot at Melbourne's Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity shows a sample of the coronavirus successfully growing in the laboratory. It will provide expert international laboratories with crucial information to help combat the virus. The virus has so far killed at least 117 people and infected over 7000 people worldwide.

“Our priority is to help those travellers wishing to repatriate to their home countries to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. Naturally, this includes South African citizens abroad wishing to return home,” Saunders said.

The number of cases of Covid-19 in SA has risen to 116. The health ministry says there has been an increase of 31 new cases since Tuesday night's announcement of 85 cases.

Appreciating the effect of travel restrictions emanating from the outbreak, the airline will be providing flexible rebooking options.

“We have updated our customer reservation policy to help our passengers defer their travel plans where possible. To this end, we have offered our customers one free ticket change, in acknowledgment of travel restrictions that are not of our customers’ own making,” SAA said.

More information is available on SAA's website.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on March 15 2020. This comes after the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus reached 61.