African airlines lost $9b revenue to coronavirus

Tuesday February 08 2022

Passengers disembark from an aircraft. PHOTO | FILE


African airlines are estimated to have lost at least $8.6 billion in revenues in 2021, as stringent Covid-19 measures continued to cause turbulence in the market. The loss is almost half the revenues the airlines earned in 2019.

The African Airlines Association (Afraa) released the estimates on Wednesday, even as it blamed governments for placing stringent travel advisories, that have left airlines in the continent struggling with operations and cash flows.

“Across Africa, passenger traffic volumes remain depressed due to the unilateral and unco-ordinated travel health restrictions imposed by some governments following the outbreak of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“Airline revenues have remained low with many operators battling with cash-flow issues. Full-year revenue loss for 2021 is estimated at $8.6 billion, equivalent to 49.8 per cent of the 2019 revenues,” Afraa said in a statement.

The loss is, however, a 15 percent improvement from the $10.2 billion Africa’s airline industry lost in 2020, as it faced raw impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, with travel restrictions that lasted at least four months. Afraa stated that the stringent travel advisories, insistence on full vaccination before travel, forceful vaccination at ports of arrival, repatriation of passengers not meeting entry travel requirements and quarantine of passengers at their own costs were among the measures that dulled the industry’s performance.

“In fact, in one African country airlines are fined as much as $3,500 per passenger for landing passengers that have not taken their second vaccination or failed to complete online health declaration forms,” the association noted.


It said the airlines operation capacity was expected to increase to 59 per cent of 2019 levels by January 2022, while passenger traffic would improve by about 0.3 per cent from December levels.

In the face of tough travel measures, Afraa observes, many airlines have relied on domestic markets which has taken the biggest share for capacity deployed.

Domestic demand in 2021 was 42 percent of the 2019 levels, followed by intra-Africa and intercontinental demand, at 31.9 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

“As at the end of 2021, African airlines had reinstated approximately 80.8 per cent of their pre-Covid international routes, though frequencies remain low,” the association reported.