The first domestic commercial flight from O. R. Tambo International Airport under Alert Level 3 took off yesterday morning, bound for Cape Town.
After 10 weeks of biding their time, a total of 57 business travellers began checking in at the airport from 4am for the flight on a CemAir Dash 8-Q400 that departed at 6.30am. The load factor on this flight was 73%.
A few hours later at 11:50am the airport received the first arrival of a domestic commercial flight under Alert Level 3 with a CemAir flight bringing some 66 passengers to Gauteng, a load factor of 83%. A second CemAir flight from O. R. Tambo International Airport to Cape Town departed at 3pm and another flight was scheduled to arrive at 8.15pm.
Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, GM of O. R. Tambo International Airport, says the extensive health and safety measures implemented at the airport worked as intended.
“The first domestic commercial flight under Level 3 is a significant step forward in demonstrating to the public this airport’s readiness and ability to apply the regulations under operational conditions. We encourage passengers to arrive at the airport two (2) hours prior to departure to allow the necessary health and safety measures such screening to be carried out diligently.
“Together with the airlines we want to demonstrate that people can use this airport safely. As more airlines resume operations in the coming days, we will closely monitor adherence to the regulations so that passengers can appreciate just how serious we are about ensuring their safety,” she says.
Pityi-Vokwana says airport management will seek feedback from frontline employees as well as passengers to identify areas where safety and the passenger experience can be further enhanced.
One such area already identified is that some passengers have assumed that their normal routes into the airport will be open.
Terminal access for arrivals and departures is now only through the parkade and no longer from the roadway. Passengers must look for the signs for Parkade 2 South.
Parkade 2 South, Level 2 is for pick-up and drop-off. The grace period has been increased from 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Parking bays are open in Parkade 2 South Level 3 and Level 4.
“For now, though, we are just pleased to again be up and running. We anticipate that demand will initially be modest but that it will grow steadily as passengers become comfortable with the regulations and convinced that they will be safe,” she says.
CemAir CEO Miles van der Molen said: “CemAir has been very active in repatriation flights during the travel restrictions, but it is particularly pleasing for us to again be able to offer scheduled domestic flights. We are now looking forward to our first flights between Durban and O. R. Tambo International from Monday.”
Van der Molen said the airline believes that passengers will gradually become accustomed to the new regulations such as wearing of masks during a flight and not receiving in-cabin service.
“Flying under these conditions is going to be challenging for the entire aviation sector, but it’s vital that we get passengers back in the air,” said Van der Molen.