Airline passengers banned from eating on domestic flights – Fikile Mbalula

Airlines are prohibited from offering passengers anything other than bottled water, and no food may be brought on board by fliers, under new rules for domestic flights                          Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/ File photo

Domestic air travellers are no longer allowed to carry a takeaway coffee or sandwich on board a flight, or buy anything to eat on board, thanks to a new on-board food ban imposed by the government.

Only bottled water may pass passengers’ lips, according to a notice published in the goverment gazette by transport minister Fikile Mbalula, effective from Tuesday.

FlySafair, the only domestic airline which had chosen not to sell or provide catering on board since domestic flights were allowed to resume last June, says it’s all about ensuring that passengers don’t have a reason to remove their masks mid-flight for more than a few seconds at a time.

“Several airlines in South Africa reinstated on-board catering, which has offered passengers an opportunity to drop their masks during flight for extended periods of time,” said FlySafair’s chief marketing officer, Kirby Gordon.

The gazetted restriction, published late on Monday night after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the country’s move to the Disaster Management Act’s level 1, reads as follows: “An operator conducting a domestic flight is not allowed to provide catering on-board the aircraft except bottled water; a passenger on a domestic flight is not allowed to eat on board the aircraft.”

Jonathan Ayache, CEO of SA’s newest domestic airline, Lift, said it was odd that the new restriction was brought in as the country moved to level 1, meaning a lessening of restrictions.

“And it would have been nice if airlines had been given a heads-up before the notice was gazetted,” he said. “But at least this change wasn’t as chaotic as the introduction of stricter curfews back in December.”

Feedback from aircrew yesterday was that passengers had generally been very understanding, he said.

“We’ve put notifications about the new no-food rule on our website but that doesn’t help those who have already booked flights, so we’ll be sending SMS notifications to them.

“If they miss those, ground crew will notify them so they can dump their sarmie before boarding.”

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