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Restrictions hurting air passenger traffic, revenues - AFRAA

Uncoordinated Covid protocols and travel restrictions continue to depress passenger traffic and airlines' capacity, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has said.

Full year revenue loss for 2021 is estimated at $8.6billion (Sh976.8 billion), equivalent to 49.8 per cent of the 2019 revenues.

In 2020, African airlines cumulatively lost $10.21 billion (Sh1.16 trillion) in revenues due to the impact of the pandemic, representing 58.8 per cent of 2019 revenues.

According to the continental airline lobby, the number of people infected by the Omicron Covid variant continues to increase resulting in some countries instituting place frantic control measures against international travel.

There are currently 350 million cases globally and 10.7 million in Africa.

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 measures being taken by some governments.

"In fact, in one African country airlines are fined as much as $3,500 (Sh 397, 565) per landing passenger who has not taken their second vaccination or failed to complete online health declaration forms,"AFRAA said in a statement on Wednesday.

In Kenya, the government expects arriving passengers aged 18 years and aboveto present valid Covid-19 vaccination certificates at the port of entry, effective December 22, 2021.

Similarly, all departing passengers must equally present a valid vaccination certificate.

As a result of these uncoordinated measures, air passenger traffic from January to December was only 42.3 per cent, AFRAA said, compared to the same period in 2019. Capacity reached 52.7m per cent.

Across Africa in general, passenger traffic volumes remain depressed due to the unilateral and uncoordinated travel health restrictions imposed by some governments following the outbreak of the Omicron variant.

Domestic demand at 42 per cent outperformed intra-Africa and intercontinental which remained subdued at 31.9 per cent for intra-Africa and 25.6 per cent for intercontinental.

On the actual number of passenger seats offered, domestic, intra-Africa and intercontinental account for 47.3 per cent, 24.9 per cent, and 27.8 per cent, respectively.

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

12 other African airlines also either re-opened routes or launched new international routes.

As at the end of 2021, African airlines had reinstated approximately 80.8 per cent of their pre-Covid international routes, though frequencies remain low.

The Intra-African connectivity reached 76 per cent of the pre-Covid level in November 2021, increased to 80 per cent in December and is forecast to slide back to 76 per cent in January 2022, because of the closure of some routes.

The political situation in Ethiopia resulted in the contraction of traffic volumes in November and December 2021.

"The situation is however improving,"AFRAA notes

Capacity is expected to inch up by 6.3 per cent to 59 per cent in the short-term while air passenger traffic will see a marginal increase of 0.3 from the previous month, as some countries adjust restrictions and reopening of economies.

Kenya's Tourism Ministry has projected a total of 70,193 passenger flight landings this year up from 59,486 last year, with Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala calling for expansion of the aviation industry and improvement of service delivery at airports.

The Tourism Research Institute projects visitor numbers will be 1.1 million up from 870, 467 last year, with inbound receipts expected to jump to Sh172.8 billion from Sh146.5 billion.

[Source: By Martin Mwita, The Star, Kenya, 03Feb22]

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