Advancing Africa – an update on latest travel developments across the Continent

Is the African market finally ready to fulfil its full potential? Will a new more open approach to air connectivity finally open the door to better intra-African connectivity? These are massive questions for a market that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts will see the strongest growth over the next 20 years and will be home to some of the fastest growing individual country markets in terms of passenger demand.

Our regular round-up delivers some of the latest key aviation and travel news stories from across the Continent.

SPECIAL NOTE: Coronavirus

The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted air service to, from and within Africa. Initially, this was on services into China and parts of Asia, more recently into  Europe, and latterly within the continent as an increasing number of cases have been recorded. But while the spread has been notable, it has not had the devastating impact that many had predicted.

This has seen restrictions on arrivals, and cancellations of numerous flights across the region. This is a fluid situation that is changing by the day. To keep up to date on the devastating effect of the virus on the aviation and supporting industries, read this new essential update from CAPA – Centre for Aviation, which curates intelligence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and myriad industry sources. Its mission is to help cut through the noise and provide a useful daily snapshot of the COVID-19 outbreak evolution, together with key industry developments.

Air Seychelles CEO calls for governments to reopen borders without ‘strict’ quarantines

Air Seychelles CEO Remco Althuis stated governments should reopen borders for international travel “without putting in too strict quarantine measures”. Mr Althuis commented: “If there are quarantine measures people will not go. We understand the health risk, but we have to be careful we don’t destroy the industry”. He also said maintaining social distancing onboard aircraft “is ultimately not sustainable because you do not generate enough revenue to pay for the flight”.

‘We have a serious problem with Air Namibia’ –  president calls for flag carrier to be liquidated’

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob commented on Air Namibia, stating: “Air Namibia must be liquidated, we have a serious problem with Air Namibia”. Mr Geingob said the airline “must be restructured”, adding: “It is not making any profits and it is just being bailed out. We must do something about it”. The airline has suspended all charter services until further notice, including all the South Africa services it planned for early Jun-2020.

Ghanaian Government evaluating investor interest in new national carrier project

Ghana’s aviation ministry is working with the government’s economic management team to evaluate proposals from potential investors in the country’s new national carrier. Minister of Aviation Joseph Kofi Adda said most of the interested investors are “local companies with foreign partners”. He confirmed the proposed airline will be privately run and majority Ghanaian owned. The government has encouraged the potential investors to explore partnerships with existing domestic airlines. Mr Adda said the government aims to “conclude everything” by the end of 3Q2020.

IATA reports 45% decline in African PRKs for Mar-2020, but CTKS remain robust

IATA, via its Middle East Regional Briefing for May-2020, reported airlines based in Africa registered a -45% year-on-year fall in passenger volumes (PRKs) in Apr-2020. The fast growing Africa-Asia market (5% expansion in 2019) posted the fastest contraction, down almost 65%. The Africa-Middle East market was second-most severely impacted, down 57%. Meanwhile, airlines based in Africa experienced just a -2.1% year-on-year decline in cargo tonne kilometres (CTKs) in Mar-2020, making African airlines the least affected region by the Covid-19 disruptions that month. The Africa-Asia market was the only global routing to continue to expand, up +8.6%.

Tunisia lifts ban on inter city travel, to reopen borders on 27-Jun-2020

Tunisia’s Presidency announced the National Committee to Combat the Covid-19 decided to allow inter city travel from 04-Jun-2020 and plans to reopen the country’s air, land and sea borders on 27-Jun-2020. Travellers arriving in Tunisia will be subject to a mandatory seven day quarantine at a hotel at their own expense, followed by seven days of health monitoring. The country’s national carrier Tunisair intends to develop a new restructuring plan that will not require as much government funding as its previous TND1.3 billion (USD457.2 million) proposed plan, which was not implemented. The new strategy will focus on fleet renewal, workforce rationalisation and a greater operational focus on the Africa market.

Unions find ‘possible investor’ for SA Express in UAE

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) have engaged creditors and investors to “save” SA Express, but claimed the Department of Public Enterprises has not committed to a final plan for the airline. NUMSA stated saving the airline would require ZAR350 million (USD21.1 million) and claimed it “found a possible investor from the UAE”. South Africa’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) confirmed this week that the provisional liquidators of SA Express secured a three month extension to the deadline for placing the airline under final liquidation. The liquidation process was previously scheduled to be finalised on 09-Jun-2020. The extension is expected to allow additional time for planning and prevent the airline from losing its air transport licence and operating certificate, which may help creditors in recovering funds.

AFRAA partners with ACC Aviation Group to provide support services for African aviation

African Airlines Association (AFRAA) announced a partnership with ACC Aviation Group to provide services to support the development of Africa’s aviation industry. The partnership will form the basis for AFRAA’s membership services initiative, named ‘AFRAA Consulting – Powered by ACC’, which will provide expertise across a range of aviation services, including strategic consultancy, asset management, aircraft charter and ACMI leasing.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African Domestic Seats (as at 08-Jun-2020)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)

News Briefs

  • EgyptAir is in negotiations with the National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr regarding an EGP3 billion (USD185.3 million) loan. The carrier will use the funds to reduce its debts, which total EGP13 billion (USD803 million). The airline secured a loan of EGP2 billion (USD123.5 million) from Egypt’s Ministry of Finance in May-2020.
  • ASKY Airlines has seen a “very devastating” impact from the coronavirus pandemic, says group commercial and ground operations director Nowel Ngala. The carrier has incurred substantial revenue losses and “serious impacts” to its ability to maintain aircraft, he explains.
  • Malawian Airlines is in discussions with Malawi’s Government for MWK385 million (USD525,000) in funding to help cover salaries and aircraft lease payments. The airline is awaiting a response from the government, according to its finance director Wube Atlaw.
  • Comair‘s business rescue practitioners announced the company’s proposed business rescue plan would include reducing its fleet size from 27 aircraft, including grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8s, to 13 737-800s and three spare 737-400s.
  • Air Madagascar has extended the suspension of all regular international services until 30-Jun-2020. The suspension does not include repatriation or cargo operations.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African International Seats (as at 08-Jun-2020)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)

Route Updates

  • Air Seychelles plans to resume weekly Seychelles-Tel Aviv service in Jul-2020 before increasing frequency to at least three times weekly in Aug-2020. CEO Remco Althuis said: “We still believe there is a lot of potential on the Israeli market”.
  • Corsair plans to gradually resume French overseas territory routes from 18-Jun-2020. The carrier will initially operate from Paris CDG, switching to Paris Orly from 26-Jun-2020. Routes to Abidjan and Mauritius will resume in late Jun-2020 pending the easing of travel restrictions between France and these countries.
  • Brussels Airlines plans to discontinue services from Brussels to Conakry and Ouagadougou due lack of economic feasibility on the routes and “unfavourable” economic situations in Guinea and Burkina Faso markets.
  • The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has granted Delta Air Lines exemption authority to operate foreign scheduled passenger and cargo services between Atlanta and the coterminal points of Johannesburg and Cape Town for two years, effective 03-Jun-2020.
  • Eurowings plans to resume Frankfurt-Windhoek service on 30-Jun-2020, operating three times weekly with A330-200 equipment, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database.
  • Cape Verde’s Government reportedly plans to resume regular inter island air services in late Jun-2020. Transportes Interilhas de Cabo Verde director general Luís Quinta stated the airline aims to resume regular domestic operations on 30-Jun-2020.
  • French bee plans to progressively resume Paris-Reunion service from 12-Jun-2020.
  • Air Nostrum plans to resume services from Gran Canaria and Palma de Mallorca to Melilla from 17-Jul-2020, operating weekly and twice weekly respectively.