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Virgin Atlantic plans to relaunch its London Heathrow-Johannesburg route on September 15. Johannesburg is one of 17 destinations that the airline aims to relaunch as soon as travel restrictions are eased.
Head of Middle East, Africa and India of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Liezl Gericke, says the relaunch of the Johannesburg route is tied to acquiring the relevant approvals for the flights. She says the airline will continue to lobby government to reopen borders.
“We want to show our commitment to return to South Africa and believe that the signs for a September reopening of borders are very promising.”
“Our intention is to gradually reintroduce flights. We are already servicing cargo flights four times a week out of Johannesburg and plan to initially introduce passenger services three times a week with the same overnight schedule that we operated prior to lockdown. We then want to slowly ramp this back up to a daily schedule, subject to demand. We will be operating a brand-new A350-1000 aircraft on the route,” adds Gericke.
At the beginning of the year, Virgin Atlantic announced its intention to launch a new seasonal London-Cape Town route in addition to its London-Johannesburg route. Gericke says the airline still has every intention of launching Cape Town before the end of the year, should it receive the relevant permission.
The airline will operate temporarily from Terminal 2 at Heathrow due to the airport’s current terminal consolidation. It will return to Terminal 3 when demand at Heathrow grows, enabling it to reopen.
Virgin Atlantic is also implementing additional safety measures. These include enhanced and thorough cleaning practices at check-in, boarding gates and on board, including the use of electrostatic spraying of high-grade disinfectant on board. Safe distancing will also be adhered to, particularly at check-in and boarding.
Customers will receive a personal Health Pack containing medical grade face masks (which are required to be worn on board), surface wipes and hand gel. To minimise contact in the short term, a simplified hot food service will be offered in Economy and Premium Economy where meals, that have been prepared and enclosed in a COVID-19 safe, monitored environment, will be delivered directly to customer’s seats.
Upper Class customers will continue to receive a choice of hot meals and desserts, which will be served on a tray.