African airlines ‘lost a whopping $10bn to Covid-19’

Saturday September 25 2021
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By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. Airlines in Africa lost a whopping $10.21 billion in revenues last year from the viral Covid-19 pandemic.

The sharp fall in revenues followed travel restrictions imposed on the global aviation industry and the resulting travel cancellations.

The tourism sector was the major casualty which saw the East African Community (EAC) bloc losing $4.8 billion in projected tourist receipts.

This was revealed in Kigali on Thursday by the EABC executive director, Mr John Bosco Kalisa, during a meeting with the private sector stakeholders in the Rwanda capital.

In order to pave the way for recovery, he suggested the reduction of air travel-related fees and taxes.

This, according to him, would reduce the cost of air travel in the EAC region - and, hence, attract more global travel by tourists and the business community.

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Mr Kalisa said the average airport charges in Eastern Africa was as high as $579.78, increasing air passenger ticket and cargo costs - thus impacting the competitiveness of the regional bloc in the aviation business.

Passenger taxes on regional departures are averaged at $46.16, while international departures taxes are at $47.85. Passengers are also transfer and arrival taxes and fees.

Apart from passengers’ taxes levied directly on the ticket, airlines are also charged noise, parking, common user terminal equipment, jetway charges, passenger bus, lighting further increasing their operating costs.

The business council CEO also urged the ministers in charge of Transport in the EAC partner states to reduce and align aircraft parking, landing, navigation, handling fees and taxes.

This, he said, would increase traffic volumes and build resilience and recovery of the air transport sector in the EAC bloc. “Air taxes and fees compose 50 percent of air tickets costs,” he said during his visit to RwandAir head offices in Kigali.

He elaborated that reduction of these charges will lower operating and air-ticket costs leading to higher air traffic volumes, boosting regional tourism and business.

The RwandAir CEO Ms Yvonne Makolo, said the East African region needs a change of mindset as air travel is not a luxury but a necessity especially now with the disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She urged EABC to push for market access under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in order to boost exports of EAC goods.