As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to afflict Africa, with the number of deaths increasing while the rate of vaccination remains slow, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has warned that the lack of support from governments and development finance institutions for the continent’s aviation and tourism industries was a major threat to the African commercial aviation sector. AFRAA warned that, should governments fail to respond to the appeals of itself, the African Civil Aviation Commission and the African Union, to supply financial support and relief to those carriers which had been most affected by the pandemic, there was a danger that the African aviation industry could collapse.
The association reported that it was forecasting that African airlines would suffer a full-year revenue loss of $8.2-billion for this year. This would be roughly equivalent to 47.2% of their full-year revenues during 2019, the last pre-Covid-19 year. Last year, African airlines suffered total losses of $10.21-billion, or 58.8% of their 2019 revenues.
Last month (that is, August), air passenger traffic carried by African airlines came to 46.8% of the level recorded during the same month in 2019. August 2021 air passenger capacity was 54.6% of that in August 2019.
However, there were significant differences in air passenger demand between the domestic, intra-African and intercontinental markets. While domestic demand last month was 58.9% of that in August 2019, the respective figures for intra-African and intercontinental demand were 22.7% and 18.4%. Regarding capacity, the number of seats available last month for domestic travel was 46.5% of that during August 2019. For intra-African travel, the number was 26.8% and for intercontinental, 26.7%.
In terms of reinstating intercontinental operations, AFRAA reported that last month African airlines had restarted 77.8% of their pre-Covid routes. This represented a month-on-month increase of 3.1%, but capacity and frequency remained limited. Carriers which increased the number of intercontinental operations in August included Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Royal Air Maroc (RAM). Four airlines – Egyptair, Ethiopian, RAM and Rwandair – are again operating about 90% of the pre-pandemic intercontinental routes.