Covid-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus, has sent the world into a frenzy, with the virus spreading at a notable pace and now making its presence known and felt in South Africa. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that you are living in a rerun of the hugely popular 2011 science fiction film “Contagion, a film that argues that fake/bad information is as contagious as the virus itself.
In an effort to contain the spread of fake news, the South African government, along with the various municipalities,took to social media and have ensured regular and measured news updates.After a special cabinet meeting on Sunday 15 March, President Ramaphosa declared a State of Emergency which includes an international travel ban for foreign visitors coming into South Africa from high-risk countries such as Iran, Spain, Italy, Germany, US, UK and China.
International Flights on Hold, Domestic Flights still a Go
While there is currently no ban on domestic travel, Ramaphosa further discouraged South Africans from travelling to affected countries in the EU, US, UK, China and South Korea.It is not always possible for everyone to put a hold on their travel plans, especially those who have no choice but to travel, such as students returning home on spring break, people returning from vacation, and individuals who need to travel for urgent business purposes.
If travel is on your schedule in the near future, or you are prepared to throw caution to the wind and grab the opportunity to benefit from cheap flights, it is easy to compare your options via the DFSA flight comparison tool. You would, however, be well advised to check the safety and security policies of the country you intend to visit as you could be subjected to self-isolation on arrival in the country of your choice, and on your return to SA!
Airports and Airlines Practicing Special Precautions
The good news is that many airports, as well as both international and local airlines, have taken to implementing special precautions to help reduce the chances of the virus spreading between passengers and crew while on board. Many are working in conjunction with the CDC and enforcing the following:
- Certain airlines’ cabin crew members have started wearing gloves at all times;
- Some airlines won’t refill any cups, opting instead to provide passengers with new ones anytime a drink is requested;
- Planes are undergoing advanced, more thorough cleaning in between flights;
- Planes from international destinations are being fogged with tray tables lowered and overhead bins down.
If you are concerned about booking flight tickets only to find that travel bans have been put in place, or you suddenly don’t feel comfortable going through with your plans once you have booked a flight – there is some relief to be found in the refund queue!
Airline Fight Cancellation Policies
In light of the Coronavirus outbreak, many airlines are now offering passengers the opportunity to cancel or change their flights without charging any additional administration fees. The policies change daily according to the current directives, and Forbes has a regularly updated Master List Of Airlines page which details how the numerous airlines are handling issues related to COVID-19. You will find these airlines and more on the list:
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Mango Airlines
- Lufthansa and Swiss Air
- Turkish Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Qatar Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air France
If you book or have already booked flight tickets with any of these airlines and you feel the need -or have been advised, to change your plans you will be able to take advantage of the concessions offered and cancel or postpone your flight. However, it is important to note that each airline has its own unique policies surrounding its offer to cancel or rescheduleflights. So, be sure to do your research to find out whether or not you are eligible and how to go about making the various alterations if need be.
How to travel safely
You will need to decide for yourself in terms of whether you are still prepared to travel or whether you’d prefer to wait until a vaccine has been found and the travel bans are lifted. The reality is that we all need to stay optimistic and informed and to understand that Coronavirus won’t be an issue forever.
If you do decide to take to the skies, there are a few precautionary measures to put in place to help protect yourself and others:
Pre-travel and Airport
- Get a flu shot as soon as it’s available – this won’t protect you from coronavirus, but it will ensure that you don’t suffer from other flu-like symptoms.
- Wash your hands with soap and water as often as you can;
- Carry an air travel-friendly sized bottle of medical-grade hand sanitiser with you (comprising of at least 70% alcohol), and wet wipes;
- If you don’t have your own hand sanitiser available, be sure to use the sanitiser provided at various terminals, bus stops etc.;
- Do not touch your face, being especially cautious to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Ensure that you check-in online and avoid using the self-service kiosks. Once at the airport to directly to the counter.
- Don’t hand over your phone if you have an e-ticket – show it;
- Distance yourself from other passengers where possible and select a seat in an empty row if the flight is only moderately full. Seat plans change often so once you get to the gate you can also ask if anything has opened up.
Security and Lounges
- Clean your laptop and phone after they go through security screening in the plastic bins.
- If you need to be patted down,politely request that the officer changes their gloves;
- Airport lounges are likely not to have fingerprint scanners available any longer for obvious reasons. Instead, you’ll need to show your boarding pass and ID;
- If you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue or use the crook of your elbow to help contain the germs;
- Take empty water bottles for the flight and fill them up once through security;
- Wipe down trays and armrests with antibacterial wipes;
- Avoid using the toilet if possible, but if not be sure to wash your hands thoroughly;
- Hydrate with water throughout the flight – alcohol and caffeine are particularly dehydrating when flying;
- If you are on a long haul flight, sleep is essential and good for your overall health
The bottom line
Stop stressing! While panic never does anyone any good, it is important to acknowledge that this outbreak is real and that you should and can do your part to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. This doesn’t mean that you need to place your life on hold. By putting the advice above into practice, you should be relatively safe from falling victim to the virus – but, obviously, there are no guarantees.
If you do decide to take your chances and to take full advantage of the ever-plummeting cheap flights, DFSA is here to help you do exactly that. Search and compare flight prices with us today!