New regs: airlines will bear the brunt

Daily-SA-Tourism-Update-Logo-croppedWITH just a few days to go before South Africa’s stringent new immigration regulations come into force, the Department of Home Affairs has finally released the Standard Operating Procedures for minors travelling into and out of South Africa – and the brunt of the responsibility for ensuring that travellers have the right documentation will rest on the shoulders of airline check-in staff at international airports. Check-in crew for airlines around the world are meant to police this complex set of rules, says David Frost, ceo of Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa). If they make the wrong call as to whether to allow a passenger onboard or not, it could have far-reaching implications for both the traveller and the airline. “Home Affairs had a year to put this together, but we only received the standard operating procedures with 12 days to go. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. It’s absolutely impossible for the tourism industry to be ready in time.” TNW contacted various airlines that fly into South Africa to enquire whether they have engaged with check-in staff about the new regulations. Most airlines refused to comment. However, there are a few that say they have implemented training and will be as prepared as possible, come June 1. “We are ready, the best way we can be, for the implementation of the new regulations,” says SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali. He says SAA began training staff the moment the new regulations were announced last year. “We conducted training and briefing sessions with staff who are at our customer touch points, including call centre staff, in order to enable them to assist our customers with queries at the time of booking. The same is the case with the check-in staff.”   Tlali says all SAA staff have now received Home Affairs’ SOP guidelines, which they can use as a reference in case there is any doubt or dispute regarding the required documentation for travelling minors.  Andre Schulz, Lufthansa’s GM for Southern Africa, says the SOPs are a helpful tool for airlines. He feels Lufthansa’s staff is well prepared to deal with the new requirements. “Our check-in staff have been briefed for over a year now, with training taking place within the regular flight briefing. We also employ Stallion Security to check our documents and they have undergone in-house training.” Lenél Vining, Air Austral Manager for South Africa, says the standard operating procedures are quite clear and adequate for airlines. However, she also points out that the new procedures are not exactly the same as the original instructions, which were sent out in 2014. Some changes, she says, include: “The unabridged birth certificate had to be translated into English by a certified translator, now it is accepted in other languages. The affidavit had to be no older than three months, now it is four months. At the time Air Austral had already prepared a guideline for the Réunion market, with the more stringent requirements. The airline will now have to make last-minute changes, which is of course inconvenient for all concerned.” Lenél says Air Austral implemented training immediately once the airline received the official standard operating procedures, and she is confident the airline staff will be ready by June 1. However, she warns the new regulations will place a huge burden on the employees who are expected to perform the checks. “I also think that, where there is the slightest doubt about correct documentation, passengers will not be accepted, resulting in loss of revenue and a possibility of increased claims in case of incorrect decisions.”

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