The African Airline Association (AFRAA) said the number of people infected by the Omicron Covid variant continues to increase and has resulted in some countries putting in place panic measures against international travel. Globally, the number of cases has reached 350 million and 10.7 million in Africa.
According to AFRAA, 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 unorthodox measures being enforced by some governments.
AFRAA revealed that in one African country, airlines are fined as much as US$3,500 per passenger for landing passengers that have not taken their second vaccination or failed to complete online health declaration forms.
As a result of these uncoordinated measures, air passenger traffic from January to December was only 42.3%compared to the same period in 2019. Capacity reached 52.7%. In January 2022, the capacity is expected to inch up by 6.3% to 59% while air passenger traffic will see a marginal increase of 0.3 from the previous month.
The domestic market maintained the biggest share for capacity deployed through actual passenger traffic saw a dip. Domestic demand at 42% however outperformed intra-Africa and intercontinental which remained subdued at 31.9%for intra-Africa and 25.6% for intercontinental. On the actual number of passenger seats offered, domestic, intra-Africa and intercontinental account for 47.3%, 24.9%, and 27.8% respectively.
At least 3 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 of the end of 2021, African airlines had reinstated approximately 80.8% of their pre-Covid international routes, though frequencies remain low.
The Intra-African connectivity reached 76% of the pre-Covid level in November 2021, increased to 80% in December and is forecast to slide back to 76% 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.
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 of COV-2.
Airline revenues have remained low with many operators battling with cash-flow issues. Full-year revenue loss for 2021 is estimated at US$8.6b, equivalent to 49.8% of the 2019 revenues. In 2020, African airlines cumulatively lost $10.21b in revenues due to the impact of the pandemic, representing 58.8% of 2019 revenues.