By Taylor Rains
Emirates Expands Presence in South Africa With New Interline Agreement With Airlink
Johannesburg-based Airlink and Dubai-based Emirates have formed a new interline agreement that will connect passengers from the United Arab Emirates’ capital to over 45 destinations in South Africa and neighboring countries. The new agreement comes after Airlink, a South African regional airline, cut its partnership with South African Airways in March.
The two airlines’ new partnership will allow passengers flying from Dubai to Johannesburg and Cape Town to continue onwards to 45 destinations in Airlink’s network. These markets include 20 in South Africa, such as Upington, East London, George and Port Elizabeth, and 25 in neighboring countries, including Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe; Livingstone, Zambia; and Vilanculos, Mozambique. As part of the interline agreement, passengers will be booked on a single ticket, and their luggage will be checked through to their final destination. Furthermore, customers can purchase tickets on both airlines via Emirates’ website or through an online travel agency.
Airlink is a privately-owned company with a fleet of over 50 aircraft, consisting mostly of Embraer 135s, Embraer 140s and Embraer 190s. It operates under its own unique “4Z” code and is not to be confused with SA Express, which suspended operations indefinitely on March 18.
This is not Airlink’s first partnership with a major airline. Recently, the regional carrier entered into a similar interline agreement with Qatar Airways. And, up until March 2020, Airlink acted as a feeder carrier for South African Airways to connect the larger airline’s major hubs to smaller markets in the region.
Emirates resumed international service between Dubai and South Africa in early October with flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg resuming on Oct. 1 and flights to Durban restarting Oct. 8. The new partnership is a step forward for Emirates and its expansion into South African markets.
“Emirates is pleased to partner with Airlink on a new interline agreement that will help us strengthen our presence and give customers more choice, flexibility and enhanced connections across 45 cities in Southern Africa,” said Emirates President Tim Clark in a statement. “We are committed to our operations in South Africa, as we continue to look at ways to build our extended network for customers, and help them benefit with diverse travel options.”
Airlink also sees promise in the partnership, seeing it as an opportunity to help boost its recovery after the impact of the pandemic.
Airline CEO Roger Foster said, “We are proud and excited about our new interline commercial agreement with Emirates. We have a deep respect for the airline, its values, and its global reach. We are confident that the relationship will deliver enhanced travel options to customers given the designed interconnectivity that will be enabled at OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.”
While the new interline agreement may entice more passengers to explore smaller South African markets, the country has strict entry rules. All of the new Emirates flights into South Africa are operated with enhanced health and safety measures, and passengers are required to have a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours before arriving in the country. Furthermore, if any passengers show signs of COVID-19, they will be required to take another test upon arrival. If the test comes back positive, they must quarantine for ten days at their own expense.
In addition to testing, South Africa has also created a list of 22 high-risk countries whose nationals are forbidden from entering for leisure travel, such as India, Belgium and the United States. The only exception is if the person traveling has spent ten days in a country deemed low or medium risk immediately before traveling to South Africa.