Airline industry leaders in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have called on governments to remove obstacles threatening airlines in the region.
More than 200 delegates are participating in the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) 48th Annual General Assembly in Zambia, which takes place at a time when global, regional and local political uncertainty, market turbulence and rising costs are taking their toll on trade, tourism and economic development.
While the global air transport sector is on track to return a USD33.8 billion profit in 2018, AASA predicts airlines across SADC will report a collective USD300 million loss for the year, with individual carriers experiencing fluctuating fortunes.
“Tourism, along with trade, is a powerful lever of growth. But they are being stunted by uncertainties,” said AASA CEO Chris Zweigenthal.
“As one of the most capital-intensive sectors and a vital enabler of economic activity, the airline industry needs Southern African governments to clarify their local economic reform policies so they do not spoil the appetite for much needed trade and investment in the region.”
According to AASA, demand for air transport is set to increase slowly by two to three percent annually over the next 5 years, reflecting weak GDP performances in the region.
Zweigenthal noted that for the aviation industry to expand and fulfil its potential in supporting jobs and enabling economies to become stronger, passenger growth must return to levels greater than five percent.
“To accommodate the volumes, we will need to operate more flights. This will require appropriate investments in modern aircraft, in airports and in airspace management infrastructure and systems,” explained Zweigenthal.
To be competitive, Southern African airlines must differentiate themselves through excellent customer service, efficiencies and value-for-money travel, trade and tourism propositions.
However, there are handbrakes applied by governments which impede air travel.
One such obstacle is difficulties airlines face in repatriating revenues from a handful of African countries, including Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Laws on cybersecurity and personal data protection is also another impediment. Few African states have drafted or promulgated cyber and data protection legislation. Those that have been passed are inconsistent, while airlines in Southern Africa are now also required to comply with the European Union General Data Protection Regulations if they sell services and products to EU citizens and residents.
AASA was established as a non-profit industry body in 1970, initially representing the common interests of airlines in South Africa. After the country’s readmission to the international community in 1994, AASA’s mandate was expanded to represent carriers domiciled across Southern Africa.
It now represents 19 airlines and works closely on a continental basis with the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and in collaboration with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on industry-wide matters.