Travel professionals have got your back…
COVID-19 and beyond

Now more than ever, there’s peace of mind in knowing that you have the expertise, empathy and unwavering support of a travel professional to help you navigate the travel storm of COVID-19.

Confused, concerned and even frustrated, you’ve been reaching out to ASATA members for weeks now, to help you cancel, rebook, reschedule or get you and your loved ones home.

They have been working tirelessly to interpret sometimes hourly-changing rebooking and cancellation policies. They’ve waded through reams of information, some of it inaccurate, to provide the best possible proactive solutions for their travelling customers. They have kept their finger on the pulse and kept their cool as global travel bans evolve rapidly.

We thank the travelling public for their patience and understanding as we juggle hundreds of balls to get the best possible outcome for our customers in these unprecedented times.

You know that when you’re leaning on your trusted ASATA-accredited travel agent, that they’ve got your back. Not only in times of COVID-19, but beyond.

Travel with Peace of Mind. Travel with an ASATA-accredited agent.

How can I find out if my travel agent is an ASATA member?

You can search for any ASATA member by name here.

General travel advice for travellers

We understand at this time, the disruption to your travel will be confusing and upsetting. Travel Agents are working around the clock to re-accommodate travellers as the situation evolves rapidly. They should be your first port of call, but please do be patient as they will be working on multiple enquiries with information that is changing continuously.

Here is a list of FAQs we hope will resolve some of your enquiries:

How will the lockdown affect my travels?

South African citizens and permanent residents are advised to refrain from all use of air travel until further notice. Non-essential travel to other countries should be cancelled or postponed.

South African citizens and permanent residents who choose to depart South Africa after the 18 March 2020, will not be allowed to re-enter South Africa until further notice.

South African citizens and permanents residents planning to travel or transit through high-risk countries should refrain from doing so until further notice.South African citizens and permanent residents should also refrain from travelling on cruise ships due to the inherent risks in such travel, until further notice.

What is the confirmed list of high-risk countries?

It is important to note that while France was not on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s list of high-risk countries, this was an oversight and it is certainly on the list that South Africa has included in its travel ban. The high-risk countries have been designated by the World Health Organization, not the South African Government. The Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) was also added to the list recently.

How long will the travel bans be in place?

The lockdown requires that all South Africans stay at home from midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April.
After this period, ASATA will continue working with the South African Government around travel bans; visa requirements. Your travel agent will keep tabs on the situation and advise accordingly.

Will I be allowed to come home from a high or medium-risk country?

The South African Government confirms it cannot deny entry of its citizens who wish to return to South Africa. As such, if you are returning from one of the high or medium-risk countries, you will be allowed to land in South Africa, but will be subject to quarantine and testing if you eventually develop symptoms.

I’m overseas already. Should I come home?

ASATA strongly recommends that travellers return to South Africa ahead of the imposed lockdown starting 26 March.

What happens if I have to travel at this time?

South African citizens and permanent residents are advised to refrain from all use of air travel until further notice. Non-essential travel to other countries should be cancelled or postponed.

Will international travellers be able to get flights out of South Africa?

Over the course of the next week, repatriation will occur on a large scale around the world, following which many airlines will no longer be able to sustain some or all of their international service.

Airlines that fly direct between South Africa and the high-risk countries will be reviewing these routes and will make decisions about whether it is sustainable to continue service. This means that what an airline is doing today, it may not be doing in a week’s time.

For any queries regarding flights, cancellations, and refunds, the airline in question should be the first contact. The aviation industry is changing quickly as the situation unfolds, and airlines will have the most up-to-date, accurate information when it comes to their own schedules and policies.

It depends on the airline, but in most cases, the passenger should be given a full refund if the airline has cancelled the flight and suspended service out of South Africa. The traveller should then try to rebook their flight with another airline as soon as is possible.

International travellers who are unable to depart South Africa due to flight cancellations should also contact their embassy or consulate in South Africa to inform them of their situation and seek information on what options are available to them.

Furthermore, if they are unable to depart South Africa before their visa or permit expires, the Department of Home Affairs has said that it will make exceptions up to July 2020, after which this will be evaluated.

Is domestic travel still allowed?

No. From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home.

What are my options for postponing or cancelling a trip?

The unprecedented and unpredictable situation is such that travel suppliers, such as airlines, are having to change their rebooking and cancellation policies daily, if not hourly.

As such, we recommend you get in touch with your travel agent swiftly to ascertain what options are open to you. Understand that should you opt to wait and see what happens, those travel options may change as the situation evolves.

Each airline, hotel, etc will have their own travel cancellation and rebooking policies in place. You may find, for example, that instead of a cash refund, you are given the option of a credit voucher. If you are due a cash refund, this may also take time to refund due to the high volume of enquiries the travel industry is currently dealing with.

We further recommend that you opt to postpone your travel, not cancel it outright. This will ensure that you have your trip secured for when the situation returns to normal, but also support your travel professional maintain its cash flow in the short-term.

Above all, your travel agent will ensure they are proactively advising you of what these are and what the best outcome for you will be.

What if I am planning to travel later in the year?

Currently, travel bans are in place for different periods – mostly until April – and it is impossible to say when the situation will return to normal. We would however ask that you only contact your travel agent later on as they are currently dealing with enquiries for short-term travel. The situation is changing rapidly and travel restrictions are changing at a fast pace. If you make a decision now for travel later on in the year, you will be doing so based on information that could change at a later stage, which may disadvantage you.

Will my travel insurance cover me for my travel?

We always recommend that travellers secure travel insurance prior to travelling for leisure or business. It is essential that you understand what the terms thereof are and whether situations like COVID-19 are covered. Travel insurance offers differ from supplier to supplier, but largely do not cover a disinclination to travel, i.e. there is no travel ban in place but you have decided you no longer wish to travel. If you are unsure as to what scenarios your travel insurance covers, please contact them directly for details.

Can I expect a full refund if I decide I’m not comfortable travelling?

The decision to cancel your travel plans because of a disinclination to travel is generally not an acceptable reason for expecting a full refund from your travel agent and/or supplier. At this time, cancellation and rebooking policies are being adjusted continuously to meet the changing situation. If an airline has cancelled the scheduled flight, or a destination has instituted a travel ban, you may be entitled to some form of refund and/or flexibility for rebooking. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by your travel agent who is liaising on your behalf with travel suppliers based on the booking terms and conditions of your initial booking. We suggest you contact your travel agent to ascertain your options. We further advise travellers to reschedule their travel instead of cancelling.

What happens if a traveller is unable to leave the country due to cancelled flights?

For any queries regarding flights, cancellations, and refunds, contact your travel agent who will liaise on your behalf with the airline. The aviation industry is changing quickly as the situation unfolds, and airlines will have the most up-to-date, accurate information when it comes to their own policies. It depends on the airline, but in most cases, the passenger should be given a full refund if the airline has cancelled.

What is the procedure for travellers in South Africa to present themselves to be tested? By when and how do travellers present themselves to be tested?

Government has stated that all travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk and medium-risk countries since mid-February will be required to quarantine themselves and present themselves for testing if they are symptomatic. Travellers can phone the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) toll-free hotline (080 002 9999), or a nearby healthcare facility to receive advice on what to do and where to go for testing. There are a range of private laboratories, e.g. Lancet and Pathcare which are doing testing.