South Africa is allowing domestic air travel for business purposes from June 1, but not all carriers are providing capacity as the country slowly eases up its coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula, giving an update on lockdown transport measures on May 30, said limited domestic air travel for business purposes is allowed under the level three restrictions that came into effect from June 1, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorisation based on the reason for travel.

The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases, he said, guided by Port Health capacity at the country’s three primary airports (Johannesburg O.R. Tambo, Cape Town, and Durban King Shaka).

Privately held Lanseria will have to arrange port health capacity, and the government will certify it before any flight is allowed to take off or land.

Mbalula said that during the first phase of the rollout, commercial aircraft movement would be allowed at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, Durban King Shaka International Airport, and Lanseria International Airport.

If infection rates remain low, phase two will see aircraft movements at Nelspruit, Polokwane, and Bloemfontein. Under phase three, movements will be allowed at Kimberley, Upington, East London, Mthatha, and Port Elizabeth.

Various health and safety measures, including temperature checks and social distancing, will be implemented, but full capacity will be allowed inside aircraft. “It must be noted that the risk of COVID-19 infection onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces,” Mbalula said.

Although restrictions are easing, not all South African scheduled commercial airlines will immediately resume flights. FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), for example, will only resume flights from June 15, the carrier said on May 31. The budget carrier earlier said it was reluctant to resume operations from June as it might be more expensive to operate.

“We remain concerned about the feasibility of operating under the prescribed restrictions, but we cannot leave our staff unpaid any longer, and we feel obligated to do our part in reopening the South African economy,” Kirby Gordon, chief marketing officer at FlySafair, is reported by the Independent Online as saying.

South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), in May, indicated it would resume domestic flights in mid-June, but its business rescue practitioners subsequently overturned this. Low-cost subsidiary Mango Airlines (JE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) on May 29 said it would issue an official statement regarding flight bookings after Mbalula’s address, but at the time of publication, no further updates had been forthcoming. “Please be advised that we are still in the process of making final deliberations and will advise you on a way forward in due course,” the airline said on June 1. It earlier said all bookings between June 1 and June 10 had been cancelled.

Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), which operates a British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) franchise and the low-cost Kulula Air (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) brand, is currently under business rescue and is not planning on flying anytime soon. On April 30, the airline issued a cautionary announcement, saying that, “in terms of the government’s requirements, it is not anticipated that Comair will commence operating prior to October or November 2020.”

South African Airlink (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) said on June 1 that it is “ready to connect you to your business from June 8, 2020, with flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.”

CemAir (5Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), meanwhile, said it is open for business flights, and bookings are open for flights to Cape Town starting from June 5, and Durban, beginning June 8.

Under South Africa’s lockdown regulations, full domestic air travel will only be permitted under risk level two and regional and international air travel at level one.