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Airlink returns to Madagascar

The regional carrier is ready to resume flights to Antananarivo at the end of January following the lifting of the flight ban.

By Tatenda Karuwa, Simple Flying. Images: Shutterstock, Hansueli Krapf, Kevstan

Airlink, South Africa’s leading regional carrier, will resume scheduled flights between South Africa and Madagascar from January 30. This follows lifting of a nearly three-year ban on flights between the two nations. Airlink is the only South African airline that operates flights to Madagascar. CEO Rodger Foster said in a statement;

“Airlink, as the designated South African carrier to Madagascar, welcomes the Madagascar government’s lifting of the prohibition which lets us re-establish these air services that are vitally important economic, trade and tourism connections between the two countries”.

Johannesburg’s O. R Tambo International Airport is the link between Madagascar and other Southern African countries, including Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Lesotho, to mention a few. This route’s resumption will be pivotal in improving tourism and trade with the Island nation.

Airlink will be operating its E-Jets which are part of its impressive Embraer fleet. Flights between Johannesburg and Antananarivo will resume on January 30, with a weekly scheduled flight on Mondays. Airlink plans to increase this to three weekly flights from February 14 and hopefully daily flights eventually, depending on the demand.

Reason for the ban on all commercial flights

All commercial flights from South Africa were barred from entering Malagasy airspace following the arrest of three Malagasy citizens in December 2020. They landed in Johannesburg with about 162lb (73.5 kg) of smuggled gold, which led to their detention and seizing of the goods.

The Malagasy authorities demanded the extradition of their citizens and the return of the seized gold. It appears that the ban was enacted as retaliation for South Africa’s failure to meet the Island Nation’s demands. However, the two governments worked on finding a solution to combat the smuggling of national property.

As South Africa’s only operator of this route, Airlink was greatly affected by this decision. Johannesburg to Antananarivo was among its top 5 most profitable flights. The route remained closed, and the ban was later extended, awaiting a signature on a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

One way from Johannesburg to Antananarivo

During the closure of this route, South African travelers had to take connecting flights from their cities to other Southern African nations to get to Madagascar.

Airlink and all its passengers will be happy to fly directly from South Africa’s main hub to Antananarivo again.

“We are looking forward to re-connecting South Africa with Madagascar and resuming our role in support of the recovery of ties between the two markets”

As the two African nations look to make amends, Airlink is considering adding a route to Nosy Be. Just off the Northwest coast, Nosy Be is Madagascar’s most famous tourist resort.

The first direct flight from O. R Tambo to Ivato International airport in nearly 36 months will depart on January 30 at 10:00 CAT on the Embraer E170. The twin-engine jetliner will fly nearly 72 passengers for the first time since the lifting of Madagascar’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, air travel has changed drastically, but airlines continue to adapt swiftly. Airlink encourages all travelers to check travel requirements and restrictions before planning their next trips. There are different guidelines for different countries on their route network.




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