South Africa has missed out on opportunities in key air travel markets, owing to its reliance on a dominant national carrier and State-owned airports, an executive of privately-owned Lanseria International Airport, north of Johannesburg, said on Thursday.
Lanseria operations deputy executive manager Trevor Teegler said that South Africa’s model of State-owned airlines and airports was outdated and that the barriers to entry that it created were putting the country at a disadvantage.
He believed that South Africa had lost out to partially privatised Kenya Airways, which is rapidly expanding, targeting a connection to 115 destinations, across 77 countries and six continents by 2021. In 2011, the airline, in which the Kenya government owns 48.9%, reached its target of 55 destinations, across 45 countries and four continents.
“South Africa is losing out on those markets and commercially operated airlines struggle to compete in a market that they entered already at a disadvantage [with State-owned models dominating],” noted Teegler.
He added that unless State-owned South African Airways shaped its policy to become more competitive, it should make way for commercial enterprises.
Teegler also lamented the lack of political will to implement policies, such as the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which aims to promote seamless intra-Africa air travel. Instead, bilateral agreements have allowed Middle Eastern airline operators to capture markets that could have been serviced by South Africa or other African countries.
Teegler was speaking at an event organised by the Transport Forum, focusing on transport policy.
The event was held at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), where UJ lecturer Tatenda Mbara stressed the importance of policy for good governance and how the implementation of policies reduced corruption risks.
City of Johannesburg transportation department executive director Lisa Seftel said that proper policy development and implementation required building relationships between government and the private sector, especially since it dominates the market in terms of public transport with minibus taxis, to create intermodal transportation models that are mutually beneficial.
She concluded that policy required consistency from government, from strategic integrated projects to freight corridors, and that coherent policy was driven by transport data and transport needs, rather than infrastructure creation imperatives and economic development.
“We need public sector officials, private sector consultants, private sector operators, consumers and customers, to cooperate in terms of policy development and implementation.”