Low Vaccination Rates Hampering Africa’s Aviation Recovery

ADDIS ABABA – Lower vaccination rates have dampened Africa’s air travel recovery to date, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“With more countries lifting travel restrictions for those vaccinated, the freedom of movement will be limited until vaccines are universally available,” said Kamil Alawadhi IATA Regional Vice-President AME.

“With only15% of Africa’s population fully vaccinated, the challenge is particularly acute.”

However, some catching up is likely this year, which will contribute to an improved financial performance, as per IATA’s Global Outlook for Air Transport report released at the ongoing IATA Annual General Meeting in Doha, today.

The Outlook forecasts the region’s aviation sector net losses to drop to $0.7 billion in 2022 from 1.1 billion last year.

It also says travel demand is expected to reach 72 % of pre-crisis (2019) levels, and capacity at 75.2% at the end of this year while the cargo business is doing well already operating at 9% above pre-crisis levels.

Globally, revenues are rising as COVID-19 restrictions ease and people return to travel. IATA’s Outlook says the industry’s revenues are expected to reach $782 billion (+54.5% on 2021), 93.3% of 2019 levels.

“Aviation is resilient. And we are rebounding,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, after the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

“People who longed for the freedom to fly are taking to the skies again—and in growing numbers,” he said. “By next year, most markets should see traffic reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels.”

The outlook also says strong pent-up demand, the lifting of travel restrictions in most markets, low unemployment in most countries, and expanded personal savings are fueling a resurgence in demand that will see passenger numbers reach 83% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

Cargo volumes are expected to set a record high of 68.4 million tonnes in 2022 despite economic challenges.

Raising Costs Remains Challenge

However, the challenge for 2022 is to keep costs under control. Overall expenses are expected to rise to $796 billion which reflects both the costs of supporting larger operations and the cost of inflation in some key items.

IATA’s Director General notes the improvement in the financial outlook comes from holding costs to a 44% increase while revenues increased 55%.

“The reduction in losses is the result of hard work to keep costs under control as the industry ramps up,” Walsh continues. “As the industry returns to more normal levels of production and with high fuel costs likely to stay for a while, profitability will depend on continued cost control. And that encompasses the value chain.”

“Our suppliers, including airports and air navigation service providers, need to be as focused on controlling costs as their customers to support the industry’s recovery,” Walsh said.

Featured image: IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh speaking at the annual general meeting on Monday.