AIRPORTS Company South Africa says it is experiencing declining passenger volumes as a number of airlines have indicated constraints based on a spike in booking cancellations.     Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
AIRPORTS Company South Africa says it is experiencing declining passenger volumes as a number of airlines have indicated constraints based on a spike in booking cancellations. Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

SAA suspends all international operations

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Mar 23, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - South African Airways (SAA) has suspended all international operations until the end of May in response to a government travel ban to contain the spread of the coronavirus as Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) braces for the financial impact of an industry- wide fallout.

SAA said on Friday it would render services only on its regional and domestic routes. SA Express also suspended its operations last week until further notice in light of Covid-19.

Low-cost domestic carrier FlySafair reduced its flight schedule by between 30 and 40percent to rationalise costs amid noticeably lower demand.

Acsa, which processed more than 48million passengers in the last financial year at its nine airports, grounded 14 flights from high-risk areas at OR Tambo International Airport and turned back foreign nationals to their countries of origin on Friday.

It was implementing air travel restrictions banning passenger air travel from the nine countries deemed high risk such as Italy, the US, Germany, and China, per the declaration in terms of the National Disaster.

OR Tambo International Airport spokesperson Betty Maloka said the disembarkation of foreign nationals at the airport had been suspended until further notice.

“Once the aircraft is airborne, it will be allowed to land. Upon landing, it will be grounded at the airport until it can return to the country of origin,” Maloka said. “In that process South African citizens and permanent citizens are allowed to disembark but will go through a rigorous medical assessment by the healthcare services.”

Acsa said on Friday that it was experiencing declining passenger volumes as a number of airlines had indicated constraints based on a spike in booking cancellations.

The company said its management had mapped various scenarios for the impact that travel restrictions would have on its revenue. It said that data and figures, however, needed to be recorded over an extended period to arrive at a factual conclusion.

“The most realistic scenario will be linked to the effect of global travel restrictions on both international and domestic traffic,” Acsa said.

“The impact of Covid-19 on passenger traffic at Acsa-operated airports will be clearer as soon as data is collected over a set period, and the impact will be assessed once travel restrictions are fully implemented.

“The availability of sufficient data will allow us to make realistic forecasts based on aircraft landing fees, parking fees, and passenger tariffs.”

In September, Acsa reported a 58.9percent decline in profits for the 2018/19 financial year to R227million, down from R552m the previous year due to pressures on operational costs. But Acsa’s revenues went up by 5.6percent to R7.1billion in the same period, from R6.7bn the previous year as landing fees rose 5percent.

Passenger service charges ticked up by 7percent and aircraft parking fees jumped 14percent.

On Friday, the company said it was doing everything it could to minimise the impact of low passenger volumes as its business primarily depended on aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue.

“On the aeronautical side, we are already seeing declines and the travel restrictions will make it worse, but in essence the global aviation industry is estimating significant declines,” it said.

“We are doing the maximum we can to minimise the impact, our mitigation plans will assist us in ensuring that we have minimum impact as is physically possible under the circumstances.”

BUSINESS REPORT

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