Both Airlines Continuing As Scheduled Despite New Omicron Variant Issues
United Airlines and Delta have announced they will not be cutting any of their current South African flights, despite the new restrictions preventing many travelers entering the U.S. from the region.
Currently, the two carriers are the only US airlines that fly directly between South Africa and the US. Both companies ceased flights to and from the Southern African country for the majority of the pandemic, and has only returned to service in the past few months.
As of Monday, non-US citizens and non-legal residents will not be able to enter the United States if, within the last fourteen days, they have been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
The restrictions have been brought into place in an attempt to contain the spread of a new concerning strain of COVID-19, named Omicron. The bulk of the infections discovered thus far have been in and around Johannesburg in South Africa. However, infections are appearing in a number of other countries. The travel restrictions in the US are being mirrored across much of the world including Europe and Asia.
Delta runs flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg three days a week in both directions. The return of the route was announced as a milestone in the return to relative normality for the company. The flight is currently the longest direct flight Delta operates, utilizing their new aircraft, the Airbus A350-900. Similarly, they also launched flights to Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana. These countries in the African market are not currently affected by the restrictions.
United were in the middle of a small expansion into the African continent when the pandemic crippled the industry. Just four months before operations ceased, they had introduced a Newark to Cape Town flight. According to United, the relaunch of this route is set for December 1st, and is going forward as planned, even in the face of the restrictions. As well as a new Newark to Johannesburg route, they have added several other African destinations including Nigeria and Ghana which, again, are not impacted by the current restrictions.
With questions raised as to potential safety pitfalls the decision may highlight, Delta stated, “The health and safety of our employees and customers remains our top priority. Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to monitor the new COVID-19 variant and any travel restrictions”.
They also announced that passengers who need to change their plans can do so without change fees. They have also brought in a difference in fare waiver for passengers booked on flights through December 12th.
United have previously announced that they have gotten rid of virtually all change fees unless the passenger is flying basic economy. Their website and newsroom does not currently list any other major changes to their fee systems, but does emphasize the need for PCR tests and vaccinations coming from the region.
Both airlines have made it clear they are in communication with the government, and can adapt as necessary, with United stating that it “remains committed to maintaining a safe and vital link for essential supplies and personnel to transit between the African continent and the United States as feasible”.
As more information regarding the new strain develops, it is likely that restrictions will move to match. Travelers intending to move between the Southern part of the African continent are strongly advised to keep abreast of any developments as changes can be extremely dynamic.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com