The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reduced its traffic forecast for Africa for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery.
Precisely, it projected that the continent will record only 45 million passengers this year, as against the 155 million it had predicted last year.
In downgrading earlier projection, the global body said it expected full-year 2020 passenger numbers in Africa to reach only 30 per cent of 2019 levels.
The body explained that forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter of 2020 showed that recovery continues to falter.
While domestic travel is picking up across Africa as countries re-open their borders, international travel remains heavily constrained as major markets including the EU remain closed to citizens of African nations and currently, residents from only two African countries– Rwanda and Tunisia – are permitted to enter EU borders.
“The further fall in passenger traffic in 2020 is more bad news for the aviation industry in Africa. A few months ago, we thought that demand reaching 45 per cent across the continent in 2020 compared to 2019 was as grim as it could get.
“But with international travel remaining virtually non-existent and a slower than expected pick up in domestic travel, we have revised our expectations downward to 30 per cent,” said IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri.
IATA also said four airlines across Africa have ceased operations due to the impact of COVID-19 and two are in voluntary administration, with many more in serious financial distress, noting that without urgent financial relief more carriers and their employees are at risk, as is the wider African air transport industry, which supports 7.7 million jobs on the continent.
The world body noted that the governments of Rwanda, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso had pledged a total of $311 million in direct financial support to air transport.
A further $30 billion has been promised by some governments, international finance bodies and other institutions including the African Development Bank, African Export Import Bank, African Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for air transport and tourism. However, most of this relief is yet reach those in need.
“Hundreds of thousands of airline jobs are at risk if there is a systemic failure in African aviation. And this is not just in aviation but across industries that depend on efficient global connectivity.
“Much needed financial relief has been pledged, but little has materialised. The situation is critical. Governments and donor organisations need to act fast or the challenge will move from supporting an industry in severe distress to resurrection from bankruptcy,” said Albakri.
Meanwhile, IATA has re-iterated the urgent need to re-open borders with COVID-19 testing and for further financial support for aviation as the COVID-19 shutdown of air transport continues.
It said that border restrictions, especially quarantine measures, have undermined one of the cornerstones of European development, the free movement of people.
As a result, passenger demand has plummeted and 2020 is expected to see passenger numbers down at least 70 per cent compared to 2019 for travel to/from/within Europe, adding that only 340 million travellers in the region are expected to fly in 2020 compared to close to 1.2 billion that flew in 2019.
IATA also explained that the collapse in air traffic has had a devastating impact globally on aviation and the millions of workers in the industry.
It noted that research from the Air Transport Action Group estimated about 4.8 million jobs directly connected with air transport are at risk.
“Many millions more in the travel and tourism industry are also threatened. It is imperative that governments work together to coordinate a plan to restart the industry. In the meantime, additional financial support is needed to help the industry get through the winter,” it added.