The aviation industry’s sustainability commercially, financially, economically, socially and environmentally, remained under threat, according to Aaron Munetsi, the CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (Aasa).
Giving the Aviation Industry Roadmap at Aasa’s 52nd annual general assembly near Kleinmond in the Western Cape on Friday, Munetsi said that for years, Aasa had been ready and pleading with governments in southern Africa to engage so that they could work together meaningfully.
“Given what is at stake, now is the time for our governments to lower their drawbridges so that we can enhance our relationships for us to work together to reimagine policies and frameworks. Instead of prescribing impediments and obstacles, these policies must be fit for purpose, enabling, and frictionless so that they promote efficiencies and drive growth and development,” Munetsi said.
The Aasa CEO said this renewal must also help to mend and strengthen the social fabric and restore trust, which was torn when the industry and some of its members were targeted and severely damaged by the malfeasances witnessed across both public and private business sectors.
Such selfish and corrupt practices must never be allowed to surface in these businesses and societies, he said.
According to Aasa, these malpractices have caused lasting damage to the industry and its slow pace in recovering to 2019 traffic levels was as much a combination of factors, which included the cynical destructive impact of corruption.
“Indeed, it is equally about rising costs and the lingering impact of the Covid-19 induced travel restrictions.”
Munetsi said while the pandemic was now behind them, the aviation industry was, however, still suffering with its own long-Covid symptoms. This was as most airlines and service providers took on additional debt to stay afloat.
“Most, if not all of them shed jobs temporarily or permanently in order to manage costs. This resulted in institutional knowledge, advanced skills and expertise being lost through retrenchments, retirements and relocation. At the same time, demand for skills development, job creation, transformation and environmental compliance are undiminished. These all require significant investment at a time when rising interest rates are pushing up the cost of borrowing and finance while fuels and other inflationary pressures are tightly squeezing margins,” he said.
Over the past two years Aasa and its affiliate continental and international airline associations have consistently called on governments to provide financial relief to the air transport and tourism sectors.
“As industry, we have not been asking for bailouts or for governments to take short-term equity holdings in airlines. What we have, and continue to call for, is relief through any of the array of instruments and mechanisms that rest in governments’ hands.”
Aasa said given the latest downward revised gross domestic product outlook for the region and the vital and significant role aviation, travel and tourism played in the economic mix, they were again calling on governments to offer them what they called “effective financial relief for our airlines”.
The association said as was seen throughout the pandemic, governments often made the right noises, but failed to follow through with suitable actions or the appropriate support.
“We need our policymakers to step up and treat travel and tourism with the importance they deserve.”
Meanwhile, last week aviation analyst Des Latham told local television station eNCA that the collapse of the rand, combined with the drop-off of domestic airlines South African Airways (SAA) and Comair and increased demand for air travel, would push ticket prices much higher than usual during the upcoming peak travel period.
Latham advised travellers should rather book well in advance and plan ahead to avoid paying nearly double the normal amount for ticket prices.