Air Namibia and other airlines cut the number of flights to Cape Town. File Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN – Elections jitters in May related to political killings and xenophobic attacks saw a 1.3 percent year-on-year drop in air passenger arrivals according to data provided by the Airports Company of SA (Acsa), before a June surge as many people undertook journeys that had been pushed back from May. 

This was then followed by a return to moderate growth in July and August. The June surge was 8 percent year on year, before an easing to a 0.9 percent year-on-year gain in July and a 2.4 percent year-on-year rise in August.

This data is for all Acsa airports, but the most important airports from an economic perspective are the international airports at Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. These airports showed a mixed trend with Durban achieving growth in international arrivals near 25 percent year on year in the past three months, while Cape Town had year-on-year declines in the past two months, and Johannesburg had a drop in July followed by an increase in August.

The main reason for the relative performance of Durban and Cape Town is capacity, as Durban increased capacity due to the start of British Airways direct flight between Durban and London, while Cape Town has seen a 9 percent year-on-year reduction as Air France, Air Namibia and Emirates cut the number of flights to Cape Town, while Air Mauritius, Condor, Edelweiss and Kenya Airways increased the number of their flights.

Wesgro said that forward bookings for the September to December period show a 4 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, so that should be reflected in the Cape Town data going forward.

In August the relative shares of the four main categories of arrivals were 69 percent for domestic arrivals, 27.5 percent for international arrivals, 3.2 percent for regional arrivals and only 0.3 percent for unscheduled arrivals. It is therefore useful to look at domestic arrivals to gauge the level of economic activity, whether that is business people looking to make a deal, tourists seeing the sights or people visiting loved ones.

The domestic arrivals data showed a similar pattern to that of international arrivals with a 1.5 percent year-on-year drop in May followed by a 8.6 percent year-on-year surge in June before easing to 2.2 percent year-on-year and 3.2 percent year-on-year increases in July and August respectively. 

What is interesting here is that Durban had a 6.9 percent year-on-year jump in August after only a 0.3 percent year-on-year gain in July, while Cape Town had a 1.2 percent year-on-year rise in August after a 2.3 percent year-on-year gain in July, while Johannesburg had a 1.6 percent year-on-year rise in August after a 3.2 percent year-on-year gain in July.

BUSINESS REPORT