Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) is temporarily suspending all scheduled Kulula Air and British Airways franchise flights for three weeks following plunging travel demand as South Africa battles a third wave of COVID-19.

The airline announced on July 2 that it would suspend all flights from Monday, July 5, 2021, and aims to recommence services on July 30, subject to the easing of restrictions and the containment of infections, particularly in Gauteng, the worst affected province which contains Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe that under the circumstances it is the right course of action,” said Chief Executive Officer Glenn Orsmond.

The airline’s administrator, Richard Ferguson, said it was the responsible thing to do to ensure the safety of passengers and staff. It was also motivated by the current ban on all leisure travel to/ from Gauteng, little demand for business and leisure travel elsewhere in the country, and no connecting traffic from international carriers, he said.

Comair’s move comes hard on the heels of startup Lift Airlines (GE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) having already announced it was suspending its flights on the Johannesburg O.R. Tambo-Cape Town route between July 5 and July 31, 2021, due to the worsening health situation in the country.

FlySafair, and Airlink (South Africa) confirmed they would continue flying but would adjust their schedules according to new curfew times, enforced as part of the stricter lockdown imposed until July 11 aimed at curbing a steep rise in the Delta variant of the virus.

Meanwhile, CemAir Chief Executive Officer Miles van der Molen confirmed that the carrier had cut capacity. “The booking volumes are severely down. We are selling 75% less than we would expect to,” he said.

South Africa recorded 21,584 new COVID-19 infections on July 1, with an average daily infection rate of 16,916 over the past seven days. The country has so far recorded two million cases, 1.75 million recoveries, and 61,000 deaths related to COVID-19.