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Resurgence of coronavirus cases dampens aviation revival plans

KQ

A Kenya Airways plane at the JKIA in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The International Air Travel Association (IATA) said the pandemic, coupled with strict government requirements on quarantines have stopped full reopening of borders for travel.
  • IATA blames the lack of a globally aligned testing regime in place of quarantine for slow recovery of the sector.
  • Africa airlines’ traffic sank 88.5 percent in September as the carriers continue to perform dismally in the wake of low demand occasioned by Covid-19.
  • IATA says the September numbers are a slight improvement when compared with 88.7 percent recorded in August.

The recovery of the aviation sector in the world has hit a wall with the resurgence of the Covid-19 in Europe and the US, an aviation agency has warned.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) said the pandemic, coupled with strict government requirements on quarantines have stopped full reopening of borders for travel.

IATA blames the lack of a globally aligned testing regime in place of quarantine for slow recovery of the sector.

“We have hit a wall in the industry’s recovery. A resurgence in Covid-19 outbreaks — particularly in Europe and the US — combined with governments’ reliance on the blunt instrument of quarantine in the absence of globally aligned testing regimes, has halted momentum toward re-opening borders to travel,” said IATA.

Africa airlines’ traffic sank 88.5 percent in September as the carriers continue to perform dismally in the wake of low demand occasioned by Covid-19.

IATA says the September numbers are a slight improvement when compared with 88.7 percent recorded in August.

The Africa carriers’ capacity contracted to 74.4 percent from 78.4 percent in September with the cabin load factor falling by 39.6 percentage points to 32.6 percent, which was the lowest among regions.

This comes at a time when IATA has projected that full-year 2020 traffic to be 66 percent less than 2019.

Globally, September passenger demand continued to be hugely depressed against normal levels, with revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) down 88.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

Capacity plummeted 78.9 percent, and load factor fell 38.2 percentage points to 43.5 percent, according to IATA.

Domestic markets continued to outperform international markets in terms of recovery, although most remained substantially down when compared with a year ago.

Domestic demand in September was down 43.3 percent compared to the previous year, which improved from a 50.7 percent decline in August. Compared to 2019, capacity fell 33.3 percent and the load factor dropped 12.4 percentage points to 69.9 percent.

Based on flight data, IATA said, the recovery in air passenger services was brought to a halt in mid-August by a return of government restrictions in the face of new Covid-19 outbreaks in a number of key markets.

“Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show that the recovery since the April low point will continue to falter. Whereas the decline in year-on-year growth of global RPKs was expected to have moderated to -55 percent by December, a much slower improvement is now expected in December forecast at 68 percent on a year ago,” IATA said.

IATA warned last month that the quarantine measures placed by different African countries were hampering the recovery of the aviation sector.

Quarantines, closed borders and travel restrictions continue to decimate travel demand in Africa and the Middle East. Traffic levels in Africa and the Middle East saw the largest drop of all regions in July compared to 2019 levels.

Major international passenger airlines resumed the Nairobi route on August 1 as Kenya opened up the airspace after the country eased containment measures brought about by Covid-19 pandemic.

KQ has also resumed international flights but decried low passenger numbers as demand for flying remains low.

The airline has cut the routes where it flies by 50 percent and it is servicing about 36 destinations since resuming in August.

KQ has been mulling cancelling trips to London and Paris following the resurgence of Covid-19 that has forced these countries to impose a second round of lockdown.

The carrier suspended New York flight that was to resume last month citing low numbers following cancellation by travellers.