The South African airline industry took a breather when the government said limited domestic air travel will be allowed under a Level 3 lockdown from 1 June but some operators are divided on whether they will resume flights.
They argued that partial opening of the airspace wouldn’t be commercially viable to operate limited flight schedules and with a low number of passengers.
FlySafair reckoned with the thought pattern, saying it will continue with the temporary suspension of flights and operations during a Level 3 lockdown.
The Chief Marketing Officer of FlySaFair, Kirby Gordon said the prospective permission to fly is okay but that clear understanding of what restrictions are going to apply and how are also ineluctable.
He advocates for additional health and safety regulations to be imposed by the government on airlines under Level 3, giving the examples of the United States of America (USA) and Europe where airlines have been allowed to resume flights only if they put in place social distancing measures such as keeping the middle seat empty.
He said this would come at a significant cost for airlines because they would sacrifice profits if seats are not occupied unless government subsidy is available.
“We find ourselves in a precarious position. We would, of course, like to start flying as soon as possible, but the commencement of operations that are unprofitable, thanks to a severely constrained demand, would put us in a worse position than what we might be by simply remaining hunkered down unless the state chooses to subsidise the aviation industry to kickstart business in South Africa,” said Gordon.
The government indicated that the domestic air travel will not be allowed to immediately resume fully but will be phased in on dates still to be announced.
Regional and international flights will still be suspended as the government is yet to provide details of how airlines will return to the skies and the frequency with which they will be allowed to operate flights. Airlines might only be allowed to operate early morning and late afternoon flights.