International Air Transport Association (Iata) regional VP: Africa and the Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi told journalists on Thursday that he had had a constructive meeting with South African Deputy Minister of Transport Lydia Chikunga. Al Awadhi has been on a three-nation African visit and briefed journalists at Iata’s Johannesburg office.
Iata, which is the representative body for the global airline industry, has had a number of concerns regarding the South African civil aviation sector. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry had contributed some $9-billion to the South African economy annually. With the pandemic, this had collapsed to just $3-billion.
“[The plans of the National Department of Transport] are in line with what Iata is trying to do, globally and within South Africa,” he reported. “I’m relatively positive that South Africa is heading in the right direction.”
One major concern has been that South Africa’s Air Services Councils (ASCs) had ceased to function during the pandemic. All countries have ASCs or their equivalents (there is not one standard structural form across the world). These ASCs granted new, or renewed existing, operating licences for airlines. This included authorising individual airlines to fly specific routes. Without operating ASCs, no new airline could function, and no existing airline could introduce new routes.
South Africa had two ASCs – one for domestic operations and one for international operations. Normally, they had a three year term. They reached the end of their terms at the end of March, and new ASCs should have started their terms on April 1. Despite the Department of Transport having advertised for nominations to the new ASCs last November, the new councils still have not been appointed. Deputy Minister Chikunga assured Al Awadhi that reactivating the ASCs was on the top of her agenda. “I was assured that it was going to be very soon,” he told the media.
He also stressed Iata’s desire that South Africa provide financial support to its aviation sector, although that did not have to be in the form of cash; it could take the form of waiving of aviation service and airport charges, for example. He noted approvingly that South Africa had suspended planned increases in aviation charges until next year, and even then would not implement them without first reviewing the industry’s situation.
Another matter was the creation of an interoperable digital system for Covid-19 vaccination and test certificates. Iata had developed its own Travel Pass, as had the African Union. The South African Department of Health was doing likewise. As all were compliant with the requirements of the World Health Organisation, he expressed the view that the integration of these systems should be “straightforward”.
Last but far from least, Al Awadhi highlighted the importance to the whole continent of the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). A previously published analysis, commissioned by Iata, had established that, in South Africa alone, full implementation of the SAATM would create 14 500 new jobs and boost the economy by $283.9-million. He reported that he was working with regional and national aviation and aviation services associations and entities to prepare the ground for an all-Africa conference next year, which would address the concerns of African governments, airlines and service providers regarding the SAATM. This would hopefully finally result in the implementation of the project.