Flying during lockdown level 1 — What to expect

Flying in South Africa during lockdown Alert Level 1 is almost the same as flying under normal circumstances, recent experiences of two MyBroadband employees showed.

Air travel in South Africa has picked up in recent weeks, with many airlines resuming domestic and international flights.

One MyBroadband staff member recently took a one-way international flight with Air Botswana from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Sir Seretse Khama Airport in Gabarone on a Friday evening.

He had to get a Covid-19 test before the flight and present a negative result at check-in. The test may not be more than 72 hours old.

Outside of requiring a negative Covid test, he observed that most of the differences from the typical experience were at the airport.

Many of the entry and exits at the international terminal were closed, while those that previously allowed for both entry and exit were now dedicated to one or the other.

This meant that it required quite a bit of walking to get to the right doors to enter or exit the building, which you might have to consider if you plan to cut it close on your timing.

Each entrance had a station where visitors and passengers were required to sanitise their hands. Security personnel also checked people’s temperatures using a thermal camera.

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Hand sanitiser stations are located throughout the airport.

The check-in process was similar to the standard procedure one would follow.

However, before going through security, he had to fill out the Covid-19 traveller health questionnaire.

The main issue was that there were no pens to fill out the forms in the designated area.

He finally managed to borrow one from a family who had scoured the airport and eventually had to buy one from a shop.

He later learned the questionnaire could be downloaded from the website and filled out beforehand, which would have saved him a lot of time and trouble.

After handing in the questionnaire and taking his temperature, he passed through the security gate and customs.

A recurring announcement on the airport’s system said passengers would need to scan their boarding passes themselves at various points. Still, his was taken twice by staff members to scan — first at the security gate and later at the boarding gate.

The waiting area for the boarding gate had designated seats that provided for safe social distancing.

The same was not possible on the bus he had to board to get to his plane.

Although it seemed most people were very aware of the importance to maintain some form of social distancing, it was not possible to stay far apart.

Boarding the plane was quick, and—except for the wearing of masks throughout the flight—the experience onboard was much like during non-Covid 19 times.

The plane was about 80% full, but it appeared as though seats had been allocated so that single travellers would not be placed alongside others.

He received a complimentary bottle of water, but no food or snacks were served on the flight.

After landing, passengers were required to alight two at a time from their seats to exit at the back of the plane.

Once inside the airport, he had to fill in another health questionnaire before proceeding to baggage collection.

Once again, no pens were available, and the passenger again had to scramble to borrow or beg airport personnel to borrow one.

The airport staff were hesitant to help as many previous borrowers had made off with their pens.

After collecting his bags, he proceeded through customs and exited the airport.

The second MyBroadband staff member flew to Cape Town and back using Lift, with a flight to the Mother City on a Sunday morning and the return flight on the following Thursday morning.

Much of his experience aligned with that of the first passenger — except that he did not have to fill in the health declaration form for international travellers, so he avoided the pen fiasco.

He was also required to remove his mask briefly to confirm his identity during check-in, which the first passenger never had to do.

He noted he might have avoided this if he did not have luggage and could check-in electronically.

In addition, he had to scan his boarding pass himself at various points during the boarding process.

Both his outbound and returning planes were near full capacity.

“Passengers are still squashed up against one another as you would expect from economy class tickets. No food or drinks were distributed on the plane, except for bottled water if specifically requested by a passenger,” he said. 

For valuable tips and more information about travelling from South Africa’s airports during the pandemic, visit the Covid-19 updates page of Airports Company South Africa.

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Flying during lockdown level 1 — What to expect