Amid a busload of headwinds in the locality and the international space, the African Airlines have recorded an improved performance to reach March 2019 pre-COVID-19 performance. 

In the latest report for March 2022 released by the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), African airlines’ capacity reached 67.3% compared to the same month in 2019. While traffic was estimated at 56%.

During the month, the domestic market remained bullish with the biggest share for both capacity and actual passenger carried. At 46.5%, the domestic market outperformed intra-Africa and inter-continental which remained subdued at 31.3% and 22.3% respectively.

The Intra-African connectivity reached 72% of the pre-COVID-19 level in February 2022 and was projected to reach 75% in March due to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions by several African states. 

Among African states, Algeria’s connectivity increased due to the reopening of many destinations, particularly in West Africa while Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and Egypt Airlines are among the airlines that opened new routes to African destinations in the reporting period.

Recently, Kenya Airways and South African Airways announced they are in search of a West African partner airline to join its two-member pact.

Despite the stellar performance, airline revenues remained low with many operators battling cash-flow issues. Full-year revenue loss for 2022 is estimated at US$4.7 billion, equivalent to 27.3% of the 2019 revenues. 

In 2021, African airlines cumulatively lost $8.6b in revenues due to the impact of the pandemic, representing 49.8% of 2019 revenues.

African states had put in vast measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and also took to fully opened up the air space to recover from the pandemic. 

For east Africa’s economic powerhouse, travellers coming to Kenya who is fully vaccinated shall be exempt from the requirement of a PCR test effective 18 March. All eligible unvaccinated travellers arriving at any port of entry must have a valid COVID-19 negative PCR test certificate conducted within 72 hours before departure regardless of the route of entry

and they shall be subjected to a rapid antigen test at their own cost of US$30. Any person who tests positive on antigen RDT will be subjected to PCR test at their own cost of us$50 and self-isolate.

Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria also reported that in-bound fully vaccinated passengers arriving will no longer be required to take a pre-departure PCR COVID-19 Test. Moreover, they will not be charged for arrival rapid antigen tests at the airport. Passengers who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated shall take a COVID-19 PCR test 48 hours before departure, or do a day 2 and day 7 test on arrival. Such passengers will be expected to pay for their PCR tests through the travel platform. The revised travel protocols take effect from 4 April 2022.

Southern Africa’s largest economic hub, will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours. All unvaccinated travellers arriving in South Africa who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

Other African Countries that have lifted travel restrictions include Senegal, Tanzania and Togo.

However, the air capacity growth is still a victim of both COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  The war between Russia and Ukraine triggered jet fuel price increases globally. In Africa, the jet fuel price hike is worrying and has the potential to slow down travel recovery. 

Platts estimated that the total impact of the price increases on the overall jet fuel bill will reach US$86.3 billion based on an estimated average price of US$115 per barrel.

Global jet fuel prices have scaled a nearly 14-yearpeak as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a surge in the crude oil market, hitting airlines and passengers with steep cost increases.

Nigeria’s two biggest airlines, Air Peace and Arik Air said on Wednesday fuel shortages that initially affected motorists had also caught up with airlines, forcing the cancellation of some flights and delays to others this week.

Air capacity restoration is critical in resuscitating Africa’s economy as it contributes hugely to the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the greatest GDP contributors in Africa. Travel and

tourism contributed over eight million jobs in Africa and over US$40 billion to

GDP during the pre-COVID-19 era. 

Worrisomely, due to incompetence and corruption, Air Zimbabwe boasts of one plane, which is also in a huge debt trap.