SAA suspends all domestic flights ahead of coronavirus lockdown

South African Airways is suspending all domestic flights in the wake of an announcement that the country is going into national lockdown this week. 

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the airline said it would support the lockdown - announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night as a response to the coronavirus pandemic - by suspending all its domestic flights as Friday 27 March up to and including 16 April 2020. 

The national carrier, which is in business rescue, suspended regional fights over the weekend in a measure to limit international and regional travel and control the spread of the virus.

"South African Airways announced its decision to suspend all its domestic flights with effect from Friday, 27 March until 16 April 2020. The decision came after government announced a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days aimed at combating the spread of the coronavirus," the SAA statement said.

During his announcement of the lockdown on Monday evening, Ramaphosa said restrictions would be introduced on travel and that international travelers who arrive in South Africa from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.

The SAA statement said it would provide support to passengers who intend to change their travel plans and commence their journeys before the implementation of the national lockdown.

"SAA is committed to looking after the interests of its customers and will assist customers whose itinerary must change as a result of the lockdown," the statement said.

The statement said one free travel change would be allowed for travel between Tuesday and Thursday. Re-accommodation of the customers for this purpose will happen on a first-come-first-served basis, the statement said.

"SAA will resume its domestic flights on 17 April 2020. All passengers who are willing to defer their travel will be expected to comply with conditions set out in the updated customer reservation policy.

"Customers are advised that the updated policy applies across SAA's route network, including domestic, regional and international flights," the statement said.

The statement said during the national lockdown SAA's call centres will not be in operation and customers must direct their questions through customer solutions via its various email service accounts.

Comair, which operates kulula.com, announced a similar measure earlier in the day, saying it would be suspending flights to several southern African destinations. 

It was a fresh blow for Comair, which has just announced that it will be restructuring in a bid to cut costs, Fin24 reported. 

Fin24 attempted to reach Comair for further details of how customers should respond to its flight cancellations, but had received no response at the time of publication. 

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