What you need to know:
- The continent’s aviation market remains relatively difficult to operate in terms of infrastructure and connectivity challenges
Arusha. African airlines may rebound this year in passenger numbers and business performance. Although they will continue to grapple with losses, they will likely register a full return to pre-Covid-19 traffic.
"The passenger numbers will surpass the 2019 levels," said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The association, which represents over 300 global carriers, said many African carriers were expanding their fleets.
More aircraft orders have been made for 2024 to cope with increased traffic and improved efficiency.
IATA further says that although they will remain loss-making, "positive operating profits are expected for some airlines."
The organisation added in the report; "In Africa, net profit will remain negative, but carriers will witness positive operating profits."
IATA forecasts that Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs) will reach 2019 levels next year while load factors continue to improve.
However, costs will remain significantly high while the gap between load factors and breakeven load factors remains small.
This will result in positive operating results but moderate losses after tax for many African airlines.
The aviation industry outlook for 2024 is contained in projections released by IATA recently and posted on its website.
The report on IATA's website shows a modest recovery for African airlines this year, given encouraging signs last year.
During 2023, Africa's passenger traffic saw tremendous recovery, with some countries witnessing pre-pandemic numbers.
On a global level, the aviation industry trade body hints at a full recovery of passenger traffic in 2024.
"This year (2023), it stood at 99 percent of 2019 levels and will reach at least 109 percent next year (2024)," the organisation said through its website.
Signs of recovery for many airlines in Africa were evident last year with what Iata saw as improved operational practices.
"Development is expected to continue in 2024, so let's see what we should expect," it said in its December 2023 report on Africa's aviation performance.
According to it, northern and eastern Africa are expected to lead the continent in traffic recovery this year.
The traffic volumes were expected to reach over 103 percent and 102 percent of 2019 levels in the two regions, respectively.
On the other hand, traffic in southern Africa (for 2023), which remained below pre-pandemic levels, is expected to fully recover this year.
Southern African countries and airlines continue to be affected by long-standing structural and economic constraints, it said.
Airlines, which are expected to make headlines this year, are likely to be the largest carriers on the continent.
They include EgyptAir, TAAG Angola, Royal Air Maroc, South African Airways (SAA), and Ethiopian Airlines, which has the largest fleet in Africa.
Challenges inhibiting air travel profitability in Africa, according to Iata, include expensive aviation fuel.
The continent’s aviation market remains relatively difficult to operate in terms of infrastructure and connectivity challenges.
Notwithstanding these challenges, demand for African air travel remains robust, and profitability is expected to stabilise this year.