Ethiopia’s air transport industry is recovering faster than the rest of the continent, and the International Air Transport Association, IATA, now projects that Ethiopian Airlines will bounce back to pre-crisis levels in 2023, a year ahead of the rest of the continent.
Ethiopia’s progress is pegged on a more measured approach to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
In its latest analysis, IATA says passenger traffic to, from, and within Ethiopia in June 2021 was only 30 percent below the comparable period for 2019. That also represented a 17 percent improvement between January 2021 - which was 47 percent down on January 2019 – and June 2021.
Ethiopia’s performance in June, was well ahead of the -66.6 percent recorded for the African continent, compared with 2019. Passenger demand is now expected to recover to pre-Covid levels by 2023. “Ethiopia is performing above the African continent’s average demand for air transport services and has made progress in the recovery. The government needs to continue its focus on maintaining efficient air connectivity amid the Covid-19 crisis. This will place Ethiopia in a strong position to weather the crisis and speed up the eventual industry and economic recovery,” IATA says.
Air transport contributed $4.2 billion to Ethiopia’s GDP in 2019 and its aviation sector, which directly employed 19,000 people, supported more than 1.3 million jobs across the wider economy, according to IATA.
The number of domestic, inbound and outbound international routes and the frequency with which they are served in Ethiopia fell 83 percent compared with 2019 owing to lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Despite improvements, connectivity was still 40 percent below pre-crisis levels at the start of September, reflecting the still limited options for international and domestic travel.
Only one percent of Ethiopia’s estimated population of 118 million is fully vaccinated. IATA is urging Ethiopia and other African countries to step up the vaccination drive in order to benefit from the increasing freedom of movement as more countries lift restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
The airline lobby says Ethiopia’s recovery can be further boosted and made more sustainable if the government moved to speed up vaccination against Covid-19, digitises its health certificates through adoption of the African Union championed Trusted Travel Pass and the IATA Travel Pass. Adoption of the two tools would support recovery by making the verification of traveller’s health credentials faster and more convenient. The government also needs to ease airline operations by helping airlines to repatriate about $59 million in revenues that remained trapped in the country as of August 2021.
“Resolving this quickly is critical for airlines to continue providing connectivity needed to sustain jobs and energize economies as they recover from Covid-19,” says Kamil Alawadhi, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and Middle East.