COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS ON DOMESTIC PASSENGER FLIGHTS AND GENERAL AVIATION

In the latest Regulations to the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 (“DMA”), which came into force nationally on 1 June 2020, the position has remained that domestic passenger air travel for leisure purposes is excluded from operating until Directions with health protocols and social distancing measures are issued by the Cabinet member responsible for transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula.

However, on 30 May 2020, Mr Mbalula announced the opening of domestic air travel for business purposes and other essential air travel as contained in the Directions signed and issued on 30 May 2020 by Mr Mbalula. The changes brought about by these Directions follow in the paragraphs below.

Commercial domestic passenger fights could resume on 1 June 2020, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Domestic passenger air travel is not permitted for recreational, leisure or tourism purposes; and
  2. Domestic passenger flights for business purposes and essential air travel are permitted to only use Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport, OR Tambo International Airport or Lanseria Airport.

It is important to note that all international passenger flights remain prohibited, except for those flights authorised by Mr Mbalula for the repatriation of South African nationals from foreign countries and the evacuation of foreign nationals from South Africa.

Mr Mbalula has made it compulsory for all persons who will be utilising commercial domestic passenger fights and entering a terminal building and boarding aircraft to wear face masks, as specified in the Regulations to the DMA, at all times and be subject to the applicable COVID-19 control measures. All airports listed above and all airlines must develop and implement procedures consistent with the applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

All passengers on commercial domestic flights must furnish written authorisation or proof of travel confirming the reasons for such travel. Further, all persons shall be screened before entering a terminal building and will be denied access should they have an elevated temperature or show signs of being infected with COVID-19.

As far as general aviation is concerned, the following general aviation operations are allowed: agricultural spraying, seeding and dusting; cloud spraying, seeding and dusting; culling; construction relating to aviation; aerial harvesting; aerial patrol, observation and survey; search and rescue; aerial recording by photographic or electronic means; fire spotting, control and fighting; and spraying, seeding or dusting other than for agricultural purposes and clouds.

Aviation Training Organisations are allowed to conduct virtual and in-contact aviation training to South African citizens and foreign students who are already in South Africa, subject to the applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions. Foreign students who are not in the borders of South Africa are only allowed to conduct virtual training. Additional authorisation is not required for training flights, provided that the aircraft that is used is registered with an approved Part 141 Aviation Training Organisation.

Further, skills tests are allowed, provided that the Examiner or Instructor is authorised by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (“SACAA”) to conduct a flight test. General aviation operators shall be required to develop and implement procedures consistent with applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

SACAA has been given the responsibility to monitor implementation of these Directions and the guidelines issued by Mr Mbalula. The above amendments discussed in this article came into effect on 1 June 2020.

Author: Blaine Saunders