After five and a half months with no passenger services between South Africa and the UK, Virgin Atlantic will resume operating passenger flights three times a week between London Heathrow and Johannesburg OR Tambo from June 24.
The airline says the schedule will be published shortly, with the first flight carrying passengers from Johannesburg will operate on June 26. Despite the movement of passengers now being permitted, the 10-day pre-booked quarantine requirement in the UK for ‘Red List’ arrivals still stands (including for returning Brits).
A jubilant Liezl Gericke, Virgin’s head Middle East, Africa and India, said the airline was delighted to now be able to fly passengers to London and back, even though no SA tourists could visit the UK right now. “Only those repositioning and holding study, work or residence permits may enter the UK from SA,” she said.
While the South African government allows international travel to and from South Africa for any purpose, including tourism, the UK advises against all but essential travel to South Africa based on the assessment of COVID-19 risks. But Liezl said there was a good appetite in the UK for travel to South Africa, and the provision of direct flights would certainly make a difference for British folk who have second residences in SA, or who want to take longer stays.
Anyone who has travelled in or through a Red List country, like South Africa, in the 10 days prior to departure, must enter the UK through a designated Red List terminal (currently Terminal 3), must have a COVID negative PCR test result (within 72 hours of departure), have completed an online passenger locator form and must have pre-booked, prior to departure, accommodation at a managed quarantine facility. This includes those who have transited through South Africa.
Liezl said agents should bear in mind that South Africans would be competing with all the Red List countries for space at the designated quarantine hotels. She recommended that they encourage their clients to book the quarantine facility as early as possible.
These UK government public health measures will be enforced using financial penalties. Please visit here for detailed public health advice and requirements for entering the UK. Virgin stresses that it is important to check the latest travel restrictions in place at the destination before clients go to the airport, including eligibility for entry and screening. If travellers do not meet the requirements, they may not be allowed to fly.
The airline says it remains committed to relaunching its seasonal Cape Town route later this year.