Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) will restart scheduled services between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Antananarivo from January 30 following a decision by Madagascar to lift an effective three-year ban on commercial flights to/from South Africa.

Madagascar removed all Covid-19 travel restrictions on March 3, 2022, but continued to block all flights to/from South Africa, a ban extended on October 15, 2022, particularly affecting Airlink, the only scheduled operator on the route.

As confirmed by Madagascar's Council of Ministers on July 13, 2022, the reason was a dispute between Antananarivo and Pretoria over 73.5 kilograms of smuggled gold and USD20,000 seized at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport on December 31, 2020, from three passengers who had arrived from Madagascar on a chartered flight.

The Malagasy government demanded the return of the treasure and the extradition of its nationals, now jailed in South Africa. The route to South Africa stayed closed pending the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two nations to combat the smuggling of national resources.

Meanwhile, as the designated South African carrier to Madagascar, Airlink has welcomed the prohibition's lifting. "We are looking forward to re-connecting South Africa with Madagascar and resuming our role in support of the recovery of ties between the two markets," commented Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Rodger Foster.

Deploying its E170LR or E190 depending on the load, Airlink will recommence with weekly services for the first two weeks before increasing to three flights weekly from February 14, with the intention of re-instating daily services as demand increases.

Other international airlines operating to/from Madagascar include Air Madagascar, Turkish Airlines, and Air France to/from Europe; Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways to/from Africa; charter flights operated by Neos Air from/to Italy, Poland, Czechia, to Nosy-Be; and commercial flights operated by Air Austral, EWA Air, Air Madagascar and Air Mauritius from/to the Indian Ocean region.