The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has warned that a commercially viable, economic and environmentally sustainable Southern African air transport industry will remain unattainable without urgent and coordinated government interventions.
The Association made this statement at its 51st Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place recently via zoom. AASA cautioned that although confidence is gradually returning, demand for air travel to, from and within Southern Africa is currently 45 per cent down on pre-COVID-19 levels, making it the second most affected region in the world after South-East Asia (-70%).
According to AASA, external pressures, such as the rising price of jet fuel, which has increased by over 116% over the past 12 months, as well as the political and socio-economic upheavals in the region, have also put the squeeze on the industry.
Aaron Munetsi, AASA CEO said: “We are in a fragile and vulnerable space and we urgently require governments to use the levers at their disposal to provide the relief that airlines need if they are to continue to provide the connectivity between markets that is the lifeblood of every modern, sophisticated and aspirational country.”
“With the right medicine, tough and bitter as it might sound, and appropriate interventions we can emerge as a fitter, stronger and more efficient industry. Unlike your doctor’s prescription, ours is clear and legible,” Mr Munetsi added.
AASA renewed its appeal to the region’s governments to prioritise support for their entire air transport and tourism industries, including private and public sector airlines, airports, air navigation services, ground handlers, safety regulators, suppliers and allied businesses.
“Because our industry is characterised by inter-dependence and we are highly regulated, it is for the good of all that our governments should take us along in their efforts to invigorate the economies because we are a critical and indispensable partner who supports their efforts. Reliable, affordable and efficient air connectivity will help to ensure sustainable employment and a significant contribution to the GDPs of countries throughout Southern Africa,” Mr Munetsi explained.
Similarly, AASA reiterates its commitment to support efforts to persuade the remaining 20 of the AU’s 55 member states, to fully adopt the SAATM, which will see all African airlines able to compete freely across and throughout the continent.
“Whilst not ignoring the concerns of the countries that are yet to come on board, we take the approach that the benefits of SAATM must be fully explained to enable these countries to appreciate the positive contribution of fully liberalised aviation to their economies. It is imperative that we look for acceptable alternatives that can be rapidly implemented so that we can start seeing some results for the countries and airlines where SAATM is fully implemented,” Mr Munetsi concluded.