African Airlines Association Secretary-General Abdérahmane Berthé in a wide-ranging interview provides key insights on the current situation in the African aviation industry, the ways in which the sector can achieve a successful restart and recovery through COVID-19, and the need for harmonized measures to regain passenger confidence.
The African airline industry has been greatly hit by the COVID 19 pandemic, what is AFRAA’s assessment of where the industry is at the moment?
The airline industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry is currently experiencing a liquidity crisis and airlines are facing the risk of insolvency or even bankruptcy due to the lack of liquidity. The resumption of airline international operations is expected to start as from mid Q3 2020.
Effective June 2020, AFRAA issues a monthly COVID-19 impact assessment report that examines the toll of the pandemic on Africa’s air transport sector. The July edition of the report reveals an estimated US$ 8.79bn loss of revenues for 2020 by African airlines.
As African countries slowly open their economies, what guidelines do you recommend for restoring air connectivity?
Even prior to COVID-19 pandemic, intra-Africa connectivity was a challenge. To resolve this issue, governments need to support the integration of Africa and ensure policies that allow a conducive environment for the development and provision of safe, reliable and affordable air transport in Africa, necessary for the free movement of persons, goods and services in the Continent.
The recovery of the airline industry post-COVID-19 will be better realized through airline collaboration and liberalization of African skies. SAATM will go a long way to facilitate the airlines rebound due to the fact that market access is a critical challenge for airlines. AFRAA supports the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project launched by the African Union Commission (AUC). SAATM will have a positive impact on air transport in Africa: better connectivity, reduced journey time, reduced tickets fares and contribute to sustainability of airline operations.
Complementing SAATM, the other AU Agenda 2063 flagship projects that envision an integrated Africa with seamless borders to complement the recovery of African airline post COVID-19 include: the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Free Movement Protocol for people.