South African low-cost domestic carrier FlySafair has been granted the route authorities to operate between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Mauritius in what constitutes the carrier’s second attempt to enter regional markets.

The route's launch is expected in 2Q21, the airline said in a statement, adding that while a schedule was not currently available due to Mauritius’s travel ban on South Africa, FlySafair hoped to introduce 2x weekly services as soon as COVID-19 travel restrictions allowed it.

This is FlySafair's second attempt to gain regional route rights after applying to serve Entebbe/Kampala in 2017. Although the carrier never initiated a scheduled operation to Entebbe, it gained an international license through the application.

“This is an all-important milestone for the FlySafair team as we look to expand our operations,” commented FlySafair Chief Executive Officer Elmar Conradie. “We’ve had our sights set on offering services beyond South Africa for some time and hope this will be one of many announcements in the future.”

“The events of the last year have definitely put a dampener on the travel and aviation industry locally and internationally. It’s given us pause for thought and helped us to think more strategically about the future of the airline,” added Kirby Gordon, Executive Manager and Chief Marketing Officer. “With some of the major local carriers still grounded, we’re hoping to provide some much-needed capacity on the route between OR Tambo and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.”

Mauritius has long been a popular holiday destination for South Africans. Of the island nation’s 1.4 million tourists in 2018, South Africans made up 14.2%, followed by Germany at 11.7%. The number of Mauritians visiting South Africa increased by 6.2% year-on-year between 2018 and 2019.

The route between Johannesburg and Mauritius would normally be served by Air Mauritius (in administration since April 2020), British Airways franchisee Comair (South Africa) (in voluntary business rescue but operating again since December 2020), and South African Airways (in administration since December 2019).

With the bulk of its scheduled network currently on hold due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Air Mauritius has been reduced to operating limited cargo and repatriation flights to Johannesburg, Paris CDG, Mumbai Int'l, and St. Denis de la Réunion, with Rodrigues Island its only regular scheduled service, ch-aviation schedules reveals.