The first outgoing repatriation flight departed OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday morning, headed for Brazil, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has confirmed.
Permitted in terms of revised regulations announced on Tuesday by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, a total of 321 passengers boarded the LATAM Airlines flight for Sao Paulo, Brazil, ACSA said in a statement.
There were "no major challenges" in making the necessary operational arrangements for the flight, said group executive for corporate affairs Refentse Shinners.
According to Shinners, a variety of role players and staff "moved quickly overnight to ensure the successful facilitation of this repatriation flight".
"We are especially appreciative of the work done by officials of the Brazilian embassy, who managed the process exceptionally well and ensured that the passengers were safely transferred to the airport by bus," she said.
According to ACSA, the LATAM Airlines crew did not disembark and carried an additional 16 crew members, so that it could do a crew change at the airport.
The 16 crew members for the flight into South Africa returned to Brazil as passengers, the airports company confirmed.
Mbalula on Tuesday confirmed that the repatriation of foreign nationals from South Africa back to their respective countries is allowed, provided that the foreign country charter their aircraft to South Africa without passengers, except with the crew.
The crew would not be allowed to disembark.
International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor also said government would allow citizens stranded abroad to return to South Africa.
During a press briefing, she confirmed there were 1 471 people, mainly students, stuck abroad, and her office would facilitate the move.
Mbalula said his department would allow for the repatriation, which would not be similar to the scale of the recent Wuhan evacuation.
According to Mbalula, the evacuation would be allowed provided the person has a fully paid return flight ticket.
On arrival, the person would be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days.