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Africa’s Airline Industry Facing ‘Darkest-Ever Crisis’

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the South African airline industry could amount to 10.7 million fewer passengers transported and a loss of about R40 billion ($2.29 billion), according to the latest projections by the International Air Transport Association (Iata). 

Iata made the projections presuming the coronavirus restrictions are not prolonged and airlines are allowed to start flying again.

Iata estimates that every job created in the aviation industry supports another 24 jobs in the wider economy. Based on this estimate, the industry body believes 186 850 jobs could be at risk in SA, and the industry’s contribution to the SA economy could plummet by about R68.4 billion ($3.8 billion).

At this stage, Iata foresees revenue losses of 32% ($4 billion) by African airlines, and has sent out an urgent appeal to African governments to take action and provide financial relief to airlines. 

Albakri told the media on Thursday that Iata is seeing some flexibility regarding air cargo transport and a lot of African carriers are beginning to utilise passenger aircraft for cargo purposes and to carry emergency medical supplies. “But we’d like to see more flexibility by regulators to enable more carriers in the region to do this,” he said.

Asked whether he thinks the SA government is doing enough to support local airlines, he said he believes all governments understand that both the state-owned and private components of the industry need to be supported. 

“Without having the entire supply chain and industry surviving, the recovery from Covid-19 will be very difficult. We have not seen evidence of governments giving preference to state-owned airlines over private-sector carriers,” he commented.

“The entire air transport industry is going through its darkest-ever crisis and we need governments throughout the world to recognise the danger this presents to their economies and survival or recovery.” 

The business rescue practitioners of South African Airways (SAA) announced on Thursday that, following the engagements with various embassies and in consultation with the relevant government departments, SAA has agreed to provide repatriation charter flights to various international destinations. The first of these chartered flights will be for the repatriation of German citizens to their home country on Friday. Negotiations are ongoing with other governments for the repatriation of their citizens. 

SAA will operate the charter services subject to the health and safety provisions contained in the regulations and other relevant provisions during the lockdown.