Advantage 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 Africa.

IATA: Africa ‘needs to travel by air’

IATA has stated Africa’s population “travels very little by air”, noting the continent accounts for 13% of the global population but only 2.1% of global passenger kilometres in 2018. IATA said the average person in Europe or North America takes at least one return trip p/a, while the average person in Ethiopia or Nigeria takes just one return trip every 50 years. The association said Africa “needs to travel by air”, noting the large distances between cities and businesses and the “extremely poor” east-west connections by road and rail. The association said delivering affordable air travel will be a challenge to the implementation of open air transport markets in Africa. Airfares within Africa are relatively high, but fares from Africa to the rest of the world are relatively low, compared to markets of a similar sector length. IATA stated: “The problem is not so much high fares by international standards, but that living standards are so low on average, so buying a typical return ticket from Africa will cost almost seven weeks of national income per person”. The association concluded: “For air travel to become affordable to more people there is no alternative to cutting operating costs, allowing airlines to reduce the cost of air travel. That can’t be done unless policy-makers implement smarter regulations and tackle inefficient infrastructure”.

Ghana Aviation Ministry seeking air services agreements with more countries

Ghana’s Ministry of Aviation director Ellis Hue Tamakloe said the ministry will continue to negotiate new bilateral air services agreements (BASAs) with other countries “as long as it takes and as long as safety and security is not compromised”. He said new BASAs will support the government’s aim to make Ghana a regional aviation hub and commented: “If you do not have enough BASAs you cannot attract the number of airlines you want in this country”.

SAA launches new airline and loyalty apps

South African Airways (SAA) has launched new mobile apps for the airline and the SAA Voyager loyalty programme. The SAA app’s functionality includes booking information, check in, checked luggage status and information on flights, destinations and lounges. The new SAA Voyager app adds transactional functions, including updating personal details, award request, claiming missing miles, converting miles and donating miles. The apps are available for Android and iOS devices. SAA plans to relaunch its mobile app later in 2019, enabling greater integration between the SAA and SAA Voyager apps.

SA Airlink to move Johannesburg-St Helena fuel stop to Walvis Bay, enabling greater capacity

SA Airlink announced its Johannesburg-St Helena service will include a technical fuel stop in Walvis Bay instead of Windhoek en route from Johannesburg, effective 07-Apr-2019. The return sector from St Helena will operate nonstop. The lower altitude and cooler meteorological conditions at Walvis Bay will enable SA Airlink to accommodate 11 additional passengers compared to operations via Windhoek. The airline operates the service with Embraer E190 equipment and is currently restricted to 87 passengers departing Windhoek.

Loan repayments restricting new projects for Ghana Airports Company: Aviation Minister

Ghana’s Minister of Aviation Joseph Kofi Adda said the cost of interest repayments on loans for the development of Accra Kotoka International Airport terminal 3 are preventing Ghana Airports Company “from taking up more projects freely” as its revenues are being used to service the loans. The interest rate was renegotiated from 8.5% to 5% and Mr Adda said: “We continue to look for ways to bring it down even lower”.

News Briefs

  • SAA Voyager partnered with Uber to enable members to use SAA Voyager miles to pay for Uber rides and Uber Eats in South Africa. SAA Voyager members may convert miles into Uber vouchers, which are valid for three years.
  • Tunisair CEO Elyes Mnakbi stated it commenced discussions with the Tunisian Government on the investment of TND150 million (USD49.4 million) in the carrier to support the tourist season and the return of Tunisians from abroad.
  • Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the airline is “interested in investing” in African countries “where there is stability” and a “huge potential for profitability”.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African Domestic Seats (as at 04-Mar-2019)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)

Fleet Development

  • Cabo Verde Airlines CEO Jens Bjarnason reportedly said the airline plans to expand its fleet to 12 aircraft by 2025 and is considering further expansion. He said the Boeing 757 is well suited to the airline’s plans.
  • Royal Air Maroc received one Boeing 737 MAX 8 (CN-MAY, MSN 60011), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is the second 737 MAX 8 to be operated by the airline.
  • Ethiopian Airlines received its first Boeing 737-800F aircraft (MSN 29121) on 01-Mar-2019. The aircraft was converted to freighter configuration by Aeronautical Engineers and delivered by GECAS. It was previously in service with Corendon Airlines, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African International Seats (as at 04-Mar-2019)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 Update

  • SA Airlink announced will reintroduce a third weekday Johannesburg-Mthatha frequency on 07-Mar-2019. The airline operates the service with Embraer ERJ135 equipment.
  • Air Seychelles plans to increase Seychelles-Johannesburg frequency from six to seven times weekly, effective 03-Jun-2019. The airline will operate the additional frequency with A320 equipment configured with 16 business class and 120 economy class seats.
  • Saudia confirmed plans to launch three times weekly Jeddah-Marrakech service, effective 06-Jun-2019. The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 787 equipment.
  • Air Cairo plans to increase Hurghada-Belgrade frequency from five to seven times weekly, effective May-2019.
  • Etihad Airways plans to resume four times weekly Abu Dhabi-Alexandria Borg el Arab service, effective 02-Jul-2019 to 31-Aug-2019, reports AirlineRoute. The carrier plans to operate the service with A320 equipment, subject to final government approval.
  • EgyptAir plans to launch twice weekly Cairo-Kigali-Entebbe-Cairo service, effective 27-Mar-2019 using Boeing 737-800 equipment.