August 10, 2021: African airlines restart of operations on international routes continued the positive trend observed in the last three months, as per African Airlines Association (AFRAA) performance report. May 2021 saw a resumption of 62.5 percent of international routes compared to the pre-Covid period, recovery further improved to 72.7 percent in June 2021 and 74.7 percent in the month under review. Some countries have been easing travel restrictions to facilitate the movement of people and tourists across borders. There is however concern that this positive trend may be reversed in subsequent months if the rate of Covid-19 infections continues to soar.
In the month of July 2021, air passenger traffic is estimated to have reached 42.9 percent compared to same month in 2019. Similarly, capacity reached 53.7 percent as of July 2021. Domestic markets across Africa continue to post better performance with demand for passenger travel outperforming intra-Africa and intercontinental at 64 percent compared to 22.9 percent for intra-Africa and 13.1 percent for intercontinental in May. As regards passenger seats offered, domestic, intra-Africa and intercontinental account for 50.2 percent, 27.3 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively.
The African continent continues to witness a significant increase in number of Covid-19 cases. The situation seems to be getting out of control especially in South Africa where daily infection has now exceeded 15,000 cases. Some African governments are resorting to lockdowns again as a way to curb the surging COV2 infections and deaths. Europe is also not out of the woods yet, despite the fact that 50 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated.
The Delta variant is indeed a threat to the safe and smooth reopening of borders. Globally the number of infected cases reached 190 million out of which 6 million are in Africa. The global recovery rate stands at 97.6 percent as against 97.1 percent for Africa.
As regards intra – African connectivity, Mauritius remains the most impacted air travel destination, with a reduction of 98 percent of possible connections to/from African airports compared to February 2020. Connectivity however improved for the North and West African airports.
Generally across Africa, passenger traffic volumes remain low due to the inconsistencies in the messaging regarding border closures, health protocols and continued surge in Covid-19 infections in some countries. The result is significant low in airlines revenues. In the first 6 months of this year, AFRAA estimates cumulative revenue losses of $5 billion by African airlines. Full year revenue loss for African airlines for 2021 is forecast at $8.4 billion.
In 2020, African airlines made a cumulatively revenue loss of $10.21 billion due to the impacts of Covid-19. This poor performance is a direct threat to the survival of the African aviation industry if the trend continues' to the end of the year. There is a need for governments to heed the call by the African Union, AFCAC, AFRAA and other organisations to provide financial reliefs and support to airlines to avoid their collapse.