The commercial airline industry is an important indicator of economic prosperity and a key driver of economic growth through its connectivity services, which enable trade between countries through the movement of goods and people, says global airline Emirates Southern Africa regional manager Fouad Caunhye.
African international travel demand grew by about 5%, based on the positive gross domestsic product growth of most sub- Saharan countries. However, numbers like that are always at the mercy of escalating costs that directly impact on the opera- tional costs and trigger economic slowdowns in the general eco- nomy, which, in turn, result in a substantial decline in demand for travel and cargo, he adds.
“The biggest indicator of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa is already evident in the airline industry,” he says, pointing out that buoyancy and increased demand can be seen in the African airline industry.
However, as supply has been increased faster than demand, there are certain segments of the industry that are experiencing negative growth rates, while other segments are showing positive growth rates.
Further, he says new and established airlines in Africa are investing large sums of money, which has led to the introduction of new routes, products and aircraft.
“There is continuous invest- ment to ensure industry growth, especially in South Africa, where the main gateways have state-of-the-art facilities for the smooth transition of inbound and outbound passengers.”
South Africa has a proactive approach to modernising its airports and infrastructure, with Airports Company South Africa and the Department of Transport ensuring that new global technological developments are implemented locally to the benefit of the domestic airline industry, says Caunhye.
He adds that the new King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), in Durban, with its improved arrivals and departures procedures for wider aircraft, is a good example of South Africa’s success in infrastructure investment.
KSIA was opened in May 2010 and is three times bigger than the old Durban Inter-national Airport.
The next stage of development for Durban has to be the integration of Durban into the wider regional network with Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe, asserts Caunhye.
“South Africa has a unique opportunity to realise the impor- tance of more business convergence into the Southern hemisphere.”
Meanwhile, Caunhye states that investment in Cape Town’s airport and aviation infrastructure has been far-sighted.