JOHANNESBURG- Dubai-based airline Emirates said on Thursday it would temporarily suspend all flights to and from South Africa from Saturday due to operational reasons, without elaborating.
"Emirates flights to/from South Africa will temporarily be suspended from Saturday 16 January to 28 January 2021 due to operational reasons," the largest carrier in the United Arab Emirates said in a statement.
Inbound travel to South Africa for leisure and business has dropped since mid December when the country identified a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus, forcing countries such as England, Germany, Switzerland and several in Asia to cancel flights to and from the country.
The new variant is said to be behind a major spike in daily infections and rising deaths for the last month, with total cases currently standing at close to 1.3 million and over 35,000 deaths.
"Customers holding tickets with final destinations in South Africa from 16 January to 28 January will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin," Emirates said.
Its local partner in South Africa - Airlink, which sells airline seats provided by Emirates for local destinations, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee. Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Potter) ((email@example.com; +27 64833 4448;))