Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has approved essential travel for South Africans who want to return to countries where they are based – but agents cannot be involved in these bookings.

According to an official media release issued by the Department of Home Affairs, South Africans are permitted to depart only for work, study, family reunion, to take up permanent residence and to receive medical attention.

Melinda Scholtz, travel agent at Flight Centre, had earlier posed a question on Open Jaw, asking whether essential flights could be booked through a travel agent, or if they had to go direct through the airlines. She later told Travel News what she had found out. “As agents, we are not allowed to book those flights. It has to be booked directly with the airlines after approval from DHA has been obtained. For SAA flights you have to register on a link on the website.”

Otto de Vries, ceo of Asata, said: “Passengers on these flights have to prove their bona fide repatriation requirements, and all their documentation, health checks and quarantine, as well as the destinations serviced are tightly controlled by the governments of South Africa and corresponding destinations.

“These policies have been established by the South African government as part of its Risk-Adjusted Strategy aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The repatriation flights are therefore not open for booking by any intermediaries, including travel agents.”

South Africans wishing to travel on these flights should have the following documents for approval:

(a) A copy of their valid South African passport

(b) A letter confirming their admissibility under the current circumstances from the embassy or other diplomatic/consular representative of the country they want to travel to. If returning by road or connecting via flights, the proof submitted needs to include permission from each transiting country.

(c) Proof of means of travel such as air or bus tickets and the intended date of departure.

South Africans who fall in these categories and satisfy the criteria can send an email to An email will then be sent to travellers who meet the criteria to enable them to proceed with their travel arrangements.

Maro Kyprianides, managing member of Tour Destinations International, told Travel News: “At the moment you have to go online to do these bookings, and there’s a whole process to it. But if it was on the GDS, or if we could really take it on in an official capacity, at least we could actually earn some money.

“It’s all about the travel industry – they talk about the travel industry, but they never talk about the travel agents. We are the people doing all the work. It would be nice if they could maybe set up a task team, and let us agents actually consult with them.”