South African Airways not booking new flights to Zimbabwe

November 16, 2017
| Report Focus News

South African Airways (SAA) is not booking new flights to Zimbabwe.

The reporter phoned the airline on Wednesday afternoon to make a booking‚ but was told “because of the state of the country we cannot make bookings now”.

She then said those who have already made bookings will be advised “as time goes on”.

“If the flight is for tomorrow‚ they will email the passengers or call the passengers.”

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said however: “Everything remains as normal as it was a week ago.”

He added that: “We have not received any information or reports that make a recommendation that we should suspend services between the two countries due to security reasons.”

The reporter also called Flight Centre to book a flight to Zimbabwe and to ask whether there were any concerns about safety going to Zimbabwe. The flight centre consultant said: “We haven’t heard anything as yet.”

She then offered to provide a quote for a flight booking.

“Let me give you a price … Are you flexible with these dates or not?”

When asked again if there were travel concerns‚ she said there was no information “yet”.

A travel advisory by Fastjet confirmed flights between South Africa and Zimbabwe and in-country are operating as per their normal schedule.

“Yet‚ we highly recommend guests to allow extra time ahead of their flight for check-in and screening procedures‚ as those may take more time than usual‚” spokesperson Hein Kaiser said.

The airline operates four daily round trip flights between Harare and Johannesburg as well as three weekly flights between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls and nine weekly flights between Harare and Victoria Falls.

Kaiser added: “Fastjet is continually monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe and will update its guests and the travel industry should circumstances change.”

Air Zimbabwe told TimesLIVE that flights are continuing as normal.

South African journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick Richard Poplak was detained at customs at Harare International Airport on Wednesday and denied entry into Zimbabwe.

“I am now watching Beat the Price in the police tea room‚” Poplak wrote on Twitter.

Poplak said there was no hint inside the airport that “anything is happening in Zimbabwe”.

“I did not see a single military craft on the apron‚ no ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Force) at the terminal and no internet blockage‚ obviously.”

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said on Wednesday morning that South Africans planning to visit Zimbabwe should continue with their plans despite the fears of an army coup.

“Before you take the decision to travel to Zimbabwe‚ please consider the prevailing conditions there and if you do decide to travel‚ please maintain regular contact with our embassy‚” Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Wednesday afternoon.

He added that the South African government was in touch with the Zimbabwean government and that they were unaware of any violent incidents. Political risk analyst Ryan Cummings said the Dirco statement was “irresponsible”.

Cummings said: “There is not enough certainty at best and a travel warning should suggest reconsider travelling unless you have an essential reason for going. This would be the stance of most foreign governments.”

Cummings said the United Kingdom and United States warning their citizens in Zimbabwe to stay home showed these were unprecedented political events happening in the country.

Botswana advised citizens against travelling to their neighbouring country.

Risk management company red24 analyst manager Andre Colling said they are advising their clients in Zimbabwe to “exercise a heightened level of caution” and remain in secure locations.

He added that movement in and out of the country remains unrestricted “which is a typical response to a coup”.

“This highlights that the military is deliberately aiming to avoid disruption. That said‚ the outcome of whatever talks are happening behind closed doors could lead to destabilisation and associated operational risks in the coming days and weeks.”