Africa’s aviation sector recorded US$10b loss in 2020 on dwindling passenger numbers – AFRAA

AFRICA – The aviation industry in Africa recorded a passenger revenue loss of about US$10.21 billion for the year 2020, with passenger numbers dropping from 95 million in 2019 to 34.7 million in 2020, representing a year-on-year decline of 63.7 percent.

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) published its impact assessment analysis in June 2021, giving an in-depth analysis of the continent’s air industry performance for 2020, showing that the carriers will continue to lose money in 2021, although it is expected to reduce to about US$8.35 billion.

From the end of March 2021, the majority of carriers grounded their aircraft causing a drastic seat and revenue per kilometre drop of 85 percent and 94 percent respectively in April and the reduction in traffic continued until June, before reversing with the gradual opening of borders.

The survey also found that African airlines carried more domestic traffic in 2020, making 43 percent of their total traffic.

“The leading carriers in terms of domestic traffic are airlines like Safair, Ethiopian Airlines, Mango Airlines, and Air Algerie. Those five airlines carried 4.8 million passengers on domestic routes during the year. International traffic represented 57 percent breaking down into 19 percent of Intra-African and 38 percent of intercontinental passengers.”

Europe is the major international destination of African airlines, representing 21 percent and even exceeding Intra African traffic (19 percent), domestic excluded even though traffic to the Middle East tended to increase, while traffic to Asia reduced due to Covid-19.

Northern Africa leads in passenger numbers, representing 36.6 percent of the total continental traffic, boosted by European tourists while Eastern Africa is second with a share of 22.2 percent of the continent’s market. Domestic and Intra-African traffic are dominant in this region, both representing 70 percent of the traffic in 2020.

Southern Africa suffered a 63.6 percent drop in traffic due to Covid-19 with the region having only 21 percent of the continental traffic, but its share of domestic market grew to 77 percent in the last quarter of 2020, from 66 percent before Covid-19.

Central and Western African regions both represented 19.7 percent of the traffic in Africa.

Johannesburg and Cairo were the busiest airports as per landings and take-offs, with Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi leading ranking by freight traffic, handling more than 330,000 tonnes in 2020 followed by Cairo’s 280,000 tonnes.

In April 2021, Kenya’s Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said African countries need to embrace and implement the open skies policy to boost the continent’s aviation industry.

They should stop protecting national carriers if the continent is to realize growth in the aviation industry and compete with carriers from other parts of the world, he said.

These are mainly the Gulf and European carriers which have a sizable market share of the continent’s traffic.

He renewed calls for the implementation of the 1999 Pan-African treaty on liberalisation of access to air transport markets, the Yamoussoukro Decision, which was coiled towards addressing shortcomings in the continent’s aviation industry.

“Protecting individual country’s airlines is not a solution. We need to walk the talk in the continent of Africa; to open the airspace,” Balala said.

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