• Wed. Jun 22nd, 2022

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the South African government to support the airline industry. The aim is to help other industries such as travel and tourism recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the medical emergency, South Africa saw air travel contribute billions to the nation’s economy.

Between 2017 and 2019, air transport’s contribution to the economic well-being of the South African economy grew from $9.4 billion to $7.6 billion in gross value, according to IATA. This figure represents 3.2% of South Africa’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, if we consider the number of jobs it supported, it went from 472,000 jobs directly to 364,000 jobs.

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Passenger traffic in South Africa is down

Compared to 2019, passenger air traffic to and from South Africa fell by 84% while domestic air traffic decreased by 69% due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the return of domestic flights in June 2020, the resumption of international flights has been a slow process. In October 2021, 27% fewer routes are being served, while the number of daily and weekly flights to South Africa has fallen by 52%.


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International flights to South Africa are down following COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

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As the South African economy suffers, the government is seeking to facilitate the recovery of aviation-related industries, such as travel and tourism. They also hope to unlock job opportunities and other economic benefits created by tourism. Speaking on the importance of tourism to the South African economy, in a statement issued on September 30, 2021, IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil Al Awadhi, said :

“The contribution of South Africa’s air transport and tourism sector to GDP all but evaporated with the COVID-19 crisis, which coincided with the closure of one airline and the extensive restructuring of two others. 2019, aviation supported 364,000 jobs in South Africa. Thanks to COVID -19, approximately 298,000 of these jobs were put at risk. This is a significant impact for over 80% of the jobs that will be lost if connectivity is not restored As South Africa’s foreign trade and tourism markets begin to come back online, it is crucial that steps are taken to ensure there is no longer any loss of jobs or opportunities.”

South Africa must support aviation

The key priorities needed to support and sustain a meaningful recovery of air transport and aviation as a whole in South Africa are:

To give money and support to the South African airline industry to help it realize its potential as an economic provider and job creator. According to the IATA statement, in addition to providing liquidity and financial guarantees to airlines, public and private, the South African government must fulfill its role as an economic provider and job creator.

The South African government has several options available to it when it comes to supporting aviation, including:

  • Cash and financial guarantees
  • Waivers and discounts on user fees and air travel taxes
  • Wage subsidies

To help facilitate a post-COVID-19 recovery, the South African government must adopt a digital platform for vaccination testing and certification. When the number of passengers starts to increase, digital health management will go a long way in controlling queues and crowds at airports. IATA says using its travel pass and the African Union Trusted Travel Pass are effective ways to verify travelers’ health credentials.

IATA has also urged the South African government to grant operating licenses for new routes while increasing the number of frequencies on existing routes.


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Only 13.9% of South Africans are vaccinated. Photo: Getty Images

IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil Al Awadhi, added:

“The prolonged absence of a functioning South African International Air Services Licensing Board is exacerbating the crisis by preventing new routes and competition, further reducing options for international travellers, inhibiting trade and delaying the creation jobs.”

More people in Africa need to get vaccinated

With low vaccination rates across the African continent, economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk. As more countries lift travel restrictions for vaccinated people, freedom of movement will be limited until the number of vaccinated people increases. Currently, according to IATA figures, only 13.9% of the South African population is fully immunized.

What do you think of IATA’s thoughts on South Africa? Please let us know what you think in the comments.


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