The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has added its voice to growing concerns over the Transnet strike that is negatively affecting most sectors of South Africa’s economy.
Transnet Port Terminals, an operating division of Transnet, has declared a force majeure, which means it cannot fulfil its contractual obligations due to unforeseeable circumstances.
The United National Transport Union (Untu) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers (Satawu) embarked on a strike last week over wage increases.
At its annual general meeting on Friday, AASA CEO Aaron Munetsi, said: "Our meeting here takes place against the backdrop of what threatens to be an economically-crippling strike by rail and harbour workers".
He said although AASA supports the Constitutional rights of labour to protest and strike, in this instance, South Africans and their economy will bear the brunt, and the impact will ripple throughout the rest of the region, and everyone would be left poorer.
"We call on both sides to quickly find common ground and resolve the dispute. If the strike is prolonged, aviation will not be spared as it will jeopardise fuel supplies to our main airports at a time when airlines and our industry partners can least afford further disruption," he said.
Munetsi said AASA was raising concerns over the likely consequences of any disruption to the fragile jet fuel supply.
"We are not out of the woods yet. We urge the government and the fuel suppliers to urgently apply themselves to establishing a far more robust and resilient plan for such eventualities. We cannot afford for our travel and tourism industry’s - or our economy’s - recovery to be derailed through failure to plan and procure suitable provisions of jet fuel, and by not implementing policies and regulations that insulate aviation from the impact of any disruptions," he said.
Munetsi said global economies were showing signs of slowing down and talk of recession was gaining momentum.
"Security of fuel supply and the higher fuel, labour, and other costs are unlikely to abate anytime soon. Logic would usually say a slowdown in GDP growth translates into lower demand for air travel," he said.
Meanwhile, International Air Transport Association (IATA) regional vice president for Africa & Middle East, Kamil Alawadhi said: "It was alarming that very recently we found ourselves on the brink of a calamity when fuel stocks at Cape Town International Airport – one of Africa’s most important gateway airports – ran so low that airlines were first rationed and then told to refuel elsewhere".
He said it was unacceptable that fuel suppliers should have exposed airlines and their customers through their poor planning and inadequate fuel provisioning.
"We cannot express it in simpler terms – we require far better planning and coordination. We call on the government and fuel suppliers to move with urgency and put in place a robust resilience plan to ensure sufficient stocks of aviation fuel are always available for airlines, more so, as we approach the peak season," he said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE