SAFA blames Emirates airline for Bafana's airport chaos

Bafana Bafana’s travel plans to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hit a snag before they even departed South Africa‚ the team delaying their intended departure from OR Tambo International Airport on Monday night due to a problem with their flight.

The national team changed their flight to Dubai from Monday night having arrived in full kit and ready to travel‚ and rescheduled that to departing from OR Tambo at 10am on Tuesday morning.

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The national team will be camping in Dubai – where they meet Ghana in a warm-up training match on Friday night – ahead of travelling to Egypt for the Nations Cup.

South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Russell Paul blamed Emirates airline for a mix-up that saw Bafana arrive at around 4.30pm on Tuesday afternnnon in anticipation of flying out together as squad and technical team at 7.10pm.

The squad arrived only to find‚ Paul said‚ that they had been split onto two flights‚ one at 7.10pm and another at 10pm.

South Africa coach Stuart Baxter did not accept this‚ and wanted his squad travelling together. The next available flight was at 10am on Monday.

Bafana returned to their team hotel to overnight in Johannesburg‚ and then went back to the airport on Monday morning.

Paul said Safa would be lodging an official complaint with Emirates about the incident.

“The airline basically indicated that – and you know how airlines are – they were overbooked‚” Paul said.

“We are still trying to investigate it with the airline. Because‚ I mean‚ we had reserved everything‚ it was all done‚ and the squad were there ready to start checking in when we were told.

“Look‚ this happens around the world anyway with airlines‚ but it shouldn’t happen with a group‚ and not with a national team.

“The airline were just adamant that‚ no‚ that was it. And it was on that basis that we decided‚ let the guys go the next morning.”

Bafana’s support staff flew ahead on Monday night and are in Dubai.

Paul did not want to comment on whether Baxter should have simply travelled in two flights on Monday‚ rather than delay the national team’s travel by half a day.

Moipone Tsotetsi of Clockwork Media‚ the company that handles the public relations for Emirates‚ could not give an immediate response‚ but said she would come back to SowetanLIVE with the airline’s side of the story.

Bafana had been looking to make a low-key exit from OR Tambo‚ as there were no TV cameras invited‚ and no interviews given at the airport.

The South Africans open their tournament at Egypt 2019 in Cairo on June 24.

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