Aviation body projects $1.5 billion loss for African carriers in 2022

African airlines are set to see a slight improvement in their financial performances in 2022 from 2021, as countries continue to vaccinate their populations and open up their economies.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), African carriers will recover from a 1.9 billion U.S. dollar loss in 2021 to a 1.5 billion in 2022.

IATA has attributed this slow pace of recovery in the industry to low vaccination rates across the continent. The body says the projected improvement is built on the expectation of some recovery in intra-Africa travel and travel to some tourist destinations with relatively higher vaccination rates.

While Africa has seen a recent rise in vaccine arrivals, most countries struggled to obtain the vital jabs in the period leading to July, leaving the continent vulnerable to reeling from the pandemic effects for longer.

Like most regions globally, Africa’s aviation sector took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, as countries shut their borders and imposed strict travel restrictions in efforts to curb spread of the virus.

IATA says the global net industry losses are expected to reduce to $11.6 billion in 2022 after a 51.8 billion U.S. dollar loss in 2021 (worsened from the 47.7 billion U.S. dollar loss estimated in April). Net 2020 loss estimates have been revised to 137.7 billion (from 126.4 billion). Adding these up, total industry losses in 2020-2022 are expected to reach 201 billion.

“The magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis for airlines is enormous. Over the 2020-2022 period total losses could top 200 billion U.S. dollars. To survive airlines have dramatically cut costs and adapted their business to whatever opportunities were available. That will see the 137.7 billion of 2020 reduce to 52 billion this year. And that will further reduce to 12 billion in 2022. We are well past the deepest point of the crisis. While serious issues remain, the path to recovery is coming into view. Aviation is demonstrating its resilience yet again,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.

IATA says air cargo business is performing well, and domestic travel will near pre-crisis levels in 2022. The challenge is international markets which remain severely depressed as government-imposed restrictions continue.

Walsh has urged governments to allow vaccinated people to travel freely, noting that this would even motivate more people to take the jabs.

“People have not lost their desire to travel as we see in solid domestic market resilience. But they are being held back from international travel by restrictions, uncertainty and complexity. More governments are seeing vaccinations as a way out of this crisis. We fully agree that vaccinated people should not have their freedom of movement limited in any way. In fact, the freedom to travel is a good incentive for more people to be vaccinated. Governments must work together and do everything in their power to ensure that vaccines are available to anybody who wants them,” said Walsh.

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