South African airlines are putting out fires resulting from lack of communication by the Department of Home Affairs
By Estelle Vosloo
Airlines and travelers sighed a breath of relief at the recent “grace period” announcement by the South African Department of Home Affairs. The grace period would delay the implementation of the new visa and birth certificate requirements for traveling to the end of September as many South African residents were caught off-guard.
Yet the Board of Airline Representatives South Africa (BARSA) said the extensive problems originating from the lack of communication about the new requirements, instituted by the Department of Home Affairs, have resulted in a chaotic mess at airports.
June Crawford, CEO of the Board of Airline Representatives South Africa, commented that airlines are responsible for ensuring that passengers are in possession of the necessary travel documentation. “This could result in passengers being denied boarding, as there is a general rule that if passengers are refused entry into a country and need repatriation the cost is borne by the airline,” said Crawford.
BARSA is now awaiting feedback from the Department of Home affairs after they requested a 12-month delay for the implementation of the new policy. The association met with the Department of Home Affairs on 3 June and submitted their request for the delay but has to date had no response from the DHA.
Better communication and a general lack of proper preparation are cited by BARSA as their reasons for the urgent request to delay the implementation of the new law.
Meanwhile airlines are putting out fires as stranded passengers all over South Africa are stranded and risk deportation:
Michi Messner, Qantas regional manager for Africa, told Tourism Update: “At no stage did the Department of Home Affairs engage with Qantas to provide a framework for the implementation of the new policy.” She added that the airline was currently in the process of preparing a strategy to communicate the new regulation to all customers and travel agents.
Lufthansa and SWISS Air have since the implementation of the new law updated their cancellation policies to assist affected passengers. “All family tickets issued on/before June 10 that have been affected by the new South African Home Affairs ruling regarding the new regulation for parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for their child/children, please note that Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines will allow one free date change for such affected family tickets or a full refund if they wish to cancel their bookings,” reported the airlines.
Spokesperson for South Africa Airways, Tlali Tlai told Tourism Update that this was a complex matter that needed to be addressed at the highest level in the company.