South Africa needs to start planning now for the safe restart of aviation – IATA
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged South Africa to start planning for the safe resumption of international air travel to help repair the impact Covid-19 had on its travel industry.
Addressing South Africa’s National Aviation Conference, IATA’s Southern and East African Head, Alexandru Stancu, reiterated the industry’s call on the government to replace quarantine with testing and for the country’s authorities to work with industry to prepare for the safe restart of airline operations.
“Careful planning along with other promotional travel incentives, will go a long way towards rebuilding the air travel and tourism industry,” said Stancu.
IATA currently foresees demand for long-haul air travel to and from South Africa returning to 2019 levels by 2024, although travel restrictions, weaker business travel, perceived health risks and the slow pace of vaccinations pose significant risks to the country’s travel and tourism industry’s restart.
“Waiting for vaccines is not an option. Restrictions should be relaxed once vulnerable groups, including aviation workers, have been vaccinated. Air travel is safe when the highly effective standardised global biosecurity measures, defined by the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation – with South Africa’s input – are applied together with rapid testing. These reduce the risk of importing infections to exceptionally low levels and as a result, make international air travel safer than many other activities that have been allowed to restart and it should not be subject to measures that are more restrictive than those applied to domestic flights”, he added.
IATA revealed that South Africa’s adoption of a standardised global approach to securely processing, sharing and recognising health credentials is also crucial for instilling the certainty and confidence that is required for people to travel again and for economies to recover. IATA’s Travel Pass, which is undergoing trial runs in more than 20 countries, including Rwanda and Ethiopia, is a digital smartphone app that integrates with Covid test and vaccine centres, airlines and border control. There are talks that there will be trials in South Africa shortly.
South Africa experienced a 73% drop in passenger demand in 2020, compared with 2019 levels. A 33% average annual growth rate is expected over 2020 – 2025, with total traffic returning to 2019 levels during 2024. Domestic travel is expected to reach 2019 levels by 2022 while regional/medium-haul travel is expected to reach 2019 levels in 2023.