Shipping & Logistics

Africa airlines losses hit Sh900bn as fresh Covid curbs hurt revival

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Planes at the Moi International Airport. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

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Summary

  • The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) says globally, the number of Covid cases has reached 350 million with Africa recording 10.7 million of the total cases.
  • AFRAA noted that there are countries where airlines are fined as much as $3,500 per person for landing passengers that have not taken their second vaccination.

Panic measures put in place by countries following the outbreak of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continue to hurt the travel sector even as the losses recorded by airlines last year hit $8.6 billion.

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) says globally, the number of Covid cases has reached 350 million with Africa recording 10.7 million of the total cases.

Stringent travel advisories, insistence on full vaccination before travel, forceful vaccination at ports of arrival, repatriation of passengers not meeting entry travel requirements and quarantine of passengers at their own costs are some of the stringent measures that AFRAA says countries have put in place.

AFRAA noted that there are countries where airlines are fined as much as $3,500 per person for landing passengers that have not taken their second vaccination or failed to complete online health declaration forms.

“The number of people infected by the Omicron Covid-19 variant continues to increase. This has unfortunately resulted in some countries putting in place panic measures against international travel,” said AFRAA.

These uncoordinated measures, the lobby said, have seen air passenger traffic from January to December stand at 42.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 with the capacity reaching 52.7 percent.

The Kenya government for instance, through the Ministry of Health, has mandated arriving passengers aged 18 years and older to present valid Covid-19 vaccination certificate at the port of entry effective December 22, 2021.

Similarly, all departing passengers must also present valid Covid-19 vaccination certificates before they are admitted to the country.

In Rwanda, all arriving passengers must quarantine for three days at a designated quarantine hotel at their own cost; take PCR test on the third day at own cost as well as antigen test. Additional PCR test is also required on seventh day at a destination testing site also at own cost.

All adult passengers travelling to Ghana must be fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test result in order to enter the country, as of December 14, 2021.

Airlines will be surcharged $3,500 for every passenger they fly in who is not vaccinated against Covid-19 or who has not completed the pre-departure health declaration forms from point of origin.

The agency says airline revenues have remained low with many operators battling with cash-flow issues. In 2020, African airlines cumulatively lost $10.21 billion in revenues due to the impact of the pandemic, representing 58.8 percent of 2019 revenues.

“In January 2022, the capacity is expected to inch up by 6.3 percent to 59 percent while air passenger traffic will see a marginal increase of 0.3 from the previous month,” said the agency.

Domestic market maintained the biggest share for capacity deployed though actual passenger traffic saw a decline.

Domestic demand, which was at 42 percent in the review period, outperformed intra-Africa and intercontinental demand that remained low at 31.9 per cent and 25.6 per cent respectively.

“On the actual number of passenger seats offered, domestic, intra-Africa and intercontinental account for 47.3 percent, 24.9 percent, and 27.8 percent respectively,” said AFRAA.

AFRAA said at least three African airlines continued their international routes expansion and by the end of 2021 had exceeded the number of international routes operated pre-Covid.