Global airliner Emirates and RwandaAir have suspended flights into Zimbabwe and the Southern African region, respectively.
Emirates advised its customers that it would suspend flights into Harare for operational reasons while RwandaAir noted concerns of the new COVID-19 variants prevalent in the region.
In a message to customers and trade partners, Emirates said it would, temporarily, suspended flights to and from Harare, a linked service with Lusaka from February 13 to February 28 this year.
However, flights into and from Lusaka would continue according to four flights a week schedule.
“Customers holding tickets with final destination Harare will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin.
In a statement, RwandaAir said the suspension follows the discovery of the new COVID19 variant in South Africa.
“RwandaAir announces the suspension of its flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lusaka and Harare effective 8 February 2021. Scheduled flights will resume as soon there is clarity on the situation,” the airline said.
RwandAir had resumed scheduled flights into Harare in October last year after the COVID-19 induced global lockdown which led to suspension of air travel across the world.
The airline also added that clients who still want to fly can rebook a later date at no extra cost or request a refund.
The SADC region, particularly South Africa, has, recently, been plagued by a new and more infectious COVID-19 strain.
The South African variant, like the new UK variant, contains a mutation known as N501Y which is believed to make the virus more contagious than older variants and is said to be responsible for 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on the aviation industry, affecting passenger traffic, air cargo demand, airport workforce and incoming revenues.
The airline industry is among the most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and global air-passenger volume in August 2020 was down around 64 percent compared with the same period in 2019 according to industry experts.
According to aviation industry experts, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically decreased airline traffic across all routes, but the volume of connecting passengers has been among the hardest hit.
The latest move by RwandaAir and Emirates is expected to have an impact on the downstream industries such as tourism and hotel occupancy.
“Obviously with the partial lockdowns where our airports are open and we are expecting tourism to start picking up. This move will definitely affect the movement of incoming tourists and business will definitely suffer,” an expert in the industry said.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people who fall sick with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment.
The disease has affected 106 million people leading to 2.3 million deaths across the world.
Zimbabwe has recorded 34 552 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus while 1 326 people had succumbed to the disease as on Monday, February 8 this year.