September 15

Flying in South Africa during Covid-19


By Luke Lalin on
September 15, 2020

Please note that this blog post was written in September 2020. For the latest travel updates, please visit our Travel with Confidence pages.


Like many of you, my travel bug has been itching for quite some time and now that South Africa is open for domestic travel, there is no better reason to get out and explore our beautiful rainbow nation once again. I think we can all agree that travel is unlikely to look the same post Covid-19, but the real question is what exactly will travel look like? One of the biggest concerns about travel right now is what to expect at the airport and how best to navigate this busy and complicated space. As the authority on African travel, we wanted to provide you with some insight in what safety measures are taking place at our airports right now and what you are likely to experience when flying in South Africa.

Flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg

Living in the glorious city of Cape Town, I decided to head up to the Kruger National Park for some much needed R&R and to be surrounded by the sounds and smell of the bush. As not all flight options or airlines are fully operational at the moment, I flew to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo Airport and did a self-drive up to the park.

Finding and booking flights was a very simple process and all the usual flights between South Africa’s largest cities are available (and even some of the smaller ones too). The route between Cape Town and Johannebsurg, two of South Africa’s most visited cities and easily South Africa’s busiest route, gives a great indication of what to expect when doing any domestic flying within South Africa.

At Cape Town International Airport

Arriving at the departures platform of Cape Town International on a Saturday afternoon, it looked like any other day at the airport. While everyone is wearing a mask, from outside the airport there is no other visible difference to the operations during this Covid-19 pandemic. Inside, however, is quite different.

Being funnelled through the entrance to the health checks at Cape Town International
Arriving at Cape Town International Airport

All passengers are required to wear masks throughout the airport and are encouraged to use hand sanitiser at all times as well. You are given hand sanitiser at every point of contact during this process which provides great peace of mind, and there are many foot-stand sanitiser stations throughout the airport too.

Entering the airport everyone is funnelled through one entrance and directed to complete the Traveller Health Questionnaire – Exit Screening from South Africa form. Even when travelling domestically, every passenger needs to complete this form. You are allowed to print your own and bring it with you, which we highly recommend as it allows for less contact and delays within the airport.

Temperature check at Cape Town International's
Temperature checks on arrival at the airport

Once you complete the form you are then directed towards tables where health officials take your temperature and collect your form. All passengers with temperatures below 38 degrees Celsius are allowed to continue. Should your temperature be above 38 degrees, you will be moved away, isolated and allowed time to relax before being tested again. If your temperature is still above 38 degrees then they will commence with a full medical check to ascertain if there are reasons that your temperature might be elevated, such as medication or underlying conditions.

All effort is taken for passengers to successfully complete the health and safety protocols and be allowed to travel. Likewise, all measures are taken to make sure every passenger is kept safe while travelling. If you are concerned about your temperature, we advise that you test yourself before going to the airport. And if you are not feeling well, delay your trip all together.

Checking In

One of biggest differences with travel right now is that the airport is very quiet. Normally a bustling hive of activity, it feels more like an abandoned city with only a few people moving around. We arrived a full two hours before our flight, just to be safe, but found we had a lot of time to kill before our flight.

Check in counter at Cape Town international airport for Covid travel
The check-in counter at Cape Town International Airport

We checked in our luggage in the normal fashion, but found plastic screens in front of every counter. Instead of handing over your identification document, we were requested to hold it up to the plastic screen  to avoid hand to hand contact.

Going through the bag screening as well as when going through the boarding gate, you are requested to scan your own ticket to avoid any hand to hand contact. Before boarding the plane you will also be asked to drop your mask briefly, just to complete the identity screening process.

The Flight

Boarding does take a little longer as everyone is encouraged to social distance during this process. The gate does open 30 minutes before departure, instead of 20 minutes, to allow a little more time to board safely.

Our flight was full. So expect to be sitting very close to people you have been socially distancing from for the past hour or two. Everyone is also expected to keep their masks on for the full duration of the flight. No inflight service takes place and it is amazing how much longer the flight feels without the expectation of food and drinks being served and cleared.

Flying in South Africa during Covid-19
Flying in South Africa: A full flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg

Getting off the airplane we were asked to depart two rows at a time from the front and back of the aircraft to ease congestion. I have heard that this is not standard on every airline but I found this to be a fantastically ordered way to control the proverbial scrum which usually takes place. I hope this is something which does continue post Covid-19.

Travelling with Children

All health and safety protocols apply to children as well so they will also need to have a Traveller Health Questionnaire completed, have their temperature checked and wear a mask at all times during travel.

Kids travelling from Cape Town to Johannesburg
It is very safe for children to travel during Covid-19

Flying in South Africa: Restaurants and lounges

We found that the usual restaurants were operational within the airport and were practicing social distancing and adhering to the various regulations. The airport lounges were not open however with no indication as to when they would be.

It’s time to scratch that Travel itch

I must confess that wearing a mask for the duration of being in the airport and the flight was not great. That said I was pleasantly surprised how orderly the process was, how friendly and kind the various staff members were and how safe I felt flying through Covid-19.

With South Africa currently open for domestic travel, and soon to be open for international travel, now is the perfect time to explore our incredible country. Spending a few days in the Kruger National Park, sipping gin & tonics and connecting with nature has been the dream holiday to reignite the senses and refuel the heart and soul.

Sundowners at Big Dam in Sabi Sand
Sundowners in the bush are always magical

There are some incredible SADC rates being offered for local travel. The world’s best and most awarded hotels and lodges in South Africa are ready – now is the time to contact our Travel Experts and book your dream South Africa holiday today.

X Rhino Africa Consultants

Plan your African Safari today

Let's explore Africa Opens our enquiry form

Opens our enquiry form


Based on 3000+ reviews



You may also enjoy 

FAQs About African Safaris

FAQs About African Safaris

About the author 

Luke Lalin

Born and raised in Johannesburg, Luke ventured to a small town in the Eastern Cape, Grahamstown, where he studied at Rhodes University. Clearly not having studied enough, he then completed a finance degree just for fun - who even does this? Luke is passionate about travelling and was lucky enough to work in the USA for almost 2 years. However, his love for Africa was too strong and he returned home and moved to the spectacular city of Cape Town to pursue a career in the travel industry. Having once been a competitive swimmer, Luke can often be found doing laps in the pool. He is, however, a general fitness junkie and can be found doing anything from cycling, running, mountain biking, triathlon, tennis, squash or anything that gets the heart rate up.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}