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African airlines sustain high passenger growth as more states end covid curbs

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Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines planes at Kamuzu International airport in Malawi. PHOTO | COURTESY

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Summary

  • African airlines have continued to post growth in passenger numbers as more countries open up their economy after years of Covid-19 restrictions that negatively impacted the aviation sector.
  • China is battling a renewed surge in infections, fueled by the Omicron BA.2 sub-variants and is facing its worst epidemic outbreak since 2020.
  • In Hong Kong, hospitals are on the verge of collapse, and Belgium and Germany continue to record new cases of infections.

African airlines have continued to post growth in passenger numbers as more countries open up their economy after years of Covid-19 restrictions that negatively impacted the aviation sector.

Data from both the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and African Airline Association (Afraa) indicates that the regional carriers' performance improved by 70 percent in February and 69 percent in March respectively.

According to IATA, the revenue that the airlines earned in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK) was higher when compared with what they got in January, bringing hope to an industry that was hard hit by Covid-19 interruptions.

“African airlines had a 69.5 percent rise in February RPKs versus a year ago, a large improvement compared to the 20.5 percent year-over-year increase recorded in January 2022 and in the same month in 2021,” said IATA.

The agency says February 2022 capacity was up 34.7 percent and load factor climbed 12.9 percentage points to 63 percent.

“The recovery in air travel is gathering steam as governments in many parts of the world lift travel restrictions.

States that persist in attempting to lock out the disease, rather than managing it, as we do with other diseases, risk missing out on the enormous economic and societal benefits that a restoration of international connectivity will bring,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general.

Afraa said the Covid-19 infection rate has picked up again in Asia and parts of Europe. China is battling a renewed surge in infections, fueled by the Omicron BA.2 sub-variants and is facing its worst epidemic outbreak since 2020.

In Hong Kong, hospitals are on the verge of collapse, and Belgium and Germany continue to record new cases of infections. Worldwide, the number of cases has reached 476 million and 11.7 million in Africa.

“Despite the surge in new infections, countries are lifting travel restrictions – apart from China where some cities are under lockdown. The WHO has criticised the so-called “brutal” lifting of anti-Covid-19 restrictions in Europe,” said AFRAA.

The agency says five African airlines continued their international routes expansion drive and had surpassed the number of international routes operated at pre-Covid while 10 other carriers either re-opened suspended routes or launched new international routes.

As of February 2022, African airlines had reinstated approximately 79.9 percent of their pre-Covid international routes, according to AFRAA.

Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and EgyptAir are among airlines that opened new routes to African destinations in the reporting period.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ announced on Monday that it has resumed operations to Madagascar and it will operate direct flights 3 times weekly from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Ivato International Airport, Antananarivo following the easing of travel restrictions previously effected by Madagascar.