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.

‘Urgent actions’ needed at South African Airways as it ‘is in a precarious financial position’

South Africa’s Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, in his debate response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2019 State of the Nation Address, stated South African Airways (SAA) “is in a precarious financial position”, noting “the airline has persistently incurred losses over the past 12 years” due to “mismanagement”, “state capture”, the inability to service its debt due to a commercially unsustainable cost structure, “incorrect” fleet configuration and “cumbersome” approval processes. Mr Gordhan said progress has been made under the airline’s 2017 long term turnaround strategy, specifically in route optimisation and other cost efficiencies, but added: “We need to create an airline that is ‘fit for purpose’ and able to compete effectively in a dynamic market and ready to negotiate with a strategic equity partner”. Mr Gordhan said the Department of Public Enterprises has reviewed the investment case for SAA and stated: “Based on comparisons with its peers there is an investment case for SAA if reforms are well implemented, and if inefficiencies in its systems are eradicated”.

Ghana’s Aviation Minister calls for full commitment to SAATM

Ghana’s Minister of Aviation Joseph Kofi Adda called for African governments to fully commit to the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative. Mr Adda said Ghana is also committed to fully implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area programme, in which aviation will play an important role. The country’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia called for greater cooperation in the African aviation industry, stating: “There is the need to strengthen coordination and harmonisation in regional policies and therefore the regulation of access to air transport markets”. He added: “Let us collaborate to combat emerging security threats in the sub-region, our safety and security can be guaranteed adequately through information sharing and adhering to regulation standards in the industry”. Dr Bawumia expects implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area to support the development of aviation.

South African President recommits to more than doubling tourist arrivals by 2030

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his 2019 State of the Nation Address, stated the government will “make good” on its ambition to more than double international tourist arrivals to 21 million by 2030. Mr Ramaphosa stated: “This will be achieved through the renewal of the country’s brand, introducing a world class visa regime and a significant focus on Chinese and Indian markets and air arrivals from the rest of our continent”.

IATA: Africa the second strongest region for freight in Apr-2019

IATA, in its Jun-2019 Africa and Middle East regional briefing, stated Africa was the second strongest performer among all regions in terms of freight demand in Apr-2019, recording a +4.4% year-on-year increase in FTKs. Africa-Asia was the best performing market in Apr-2019 but has shown “high volatility” in recent months. Freight load factor performance “deteriorated modestly” for Africa in Apr-2019, compared to Mar-2019.

News Briefs

  • Air Seychelles plans to introduce the ‘seyStream’ wireless IFE system across its A320 and A320neo fleet, effective 01-Aug-2019. The system will be free to access on passengers’ personal devices and content will be refreshed bi-monthly.
  • South African LCC is now allowing passengers to use portable electronic devices during all phases of flight on domestic services provided the devices are in aircraft mode or have their cellular connection disabled. Passengers were previously required to turn off and stow all electronic devices during taxi, take off and landing.
  • South Africa’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector reported the launch of the South African Federation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Safu). The nonprofit organisation aims to promote and support the development of the UAV drone sector in South Africa.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African Domestic Seats (as at 24-Jun-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

  • Lufthansa Group executive chairman and CEO Carsten Spohr said its airlines could look at acquiring the new Airbus A321XLR. He said the aircraft is a “niche product” that “could be used on our network, also maybe for some African destinations,” but won’t be a “game changer” due lower comfort levels on narrowbody aircraft on medium haul routes.
  • Air Mauritius received its second A330-900 (3B-NBV, MSN 1890) as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. Both aircraft are leased from Air Lease Corporation.
  • Bombardier Commercial Aircraft announced the delivery of one new CRJ900 aircraft to Petroleum Air Services of Egypt.
  • Air Austral confirmed it has signed contracts for the charter of two A330-200 aircraft owned by Aigle Azur and Wamos Air to replace one Boeing 787-8 aircraft grounded due to engine issues.
  • Uganda Airlines is expected to receive its third Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft in Jul-2019 and its fourth in Sep-2019, according to Uganda’s Cabinet Minister for Works and Transport Monica Azuba Ntege. The airline is also expected to take delivery of two A330-800 aircraft in Dec-2020 and Jan-2021.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African International Seats (as at 24-Jun-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

  • Royal Air Maroc commenced a three times weekly Casablanca-Boston service with Boeing 787 equipment on 22-Jun-2019. The service marks the first nonstop route between mainland Africa and Boston.
  • Mango plans to commence twice daily Johannesburg Lanseria-Port Elizabeth service on 11-Jul-2019, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database.
  • RwandAir commenced a three times weekly Kigali-Tel Aviv service with Boeing 737-800 equipment on 25-Jun-2019. Tel Aviv is the airline’s 29th destination.
  • Jambojet is operating three times weekly Nairobi-Blantyre service with de Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 equipment on a wet lease basis on behalf of Kenya Airways due to ongoing runway repairs at Blantyre Chileka Airport.
  • Etihad Airways announced it will operate seasonal three times weekly Abu Dhabi-Alexandria service between 02-Jul-2019 and 31-Aug-2019 with Airbus A320 equipment.
  • Air Peace confirmed plans to commence operations to Dubai via Sharjah with Boeing 777 equipment on 05-Jul-2019.