IATA, the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), and the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA) have called on the South African government to provide financial relief to the aviation sector to address the severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

IATA estimates that revenues generated by airlines in the South African market will fall by $3 billion (about ZAR55 billion) in 2020, 56% below 2019 levels. That puts at risk more than 250,000 South African jobs and $5.1billion (about ZAR 93bn) of South Africa’s GDP, which is generated by aviation directly and by air transport-dependent tourism.

South African authorities have provided some support. Airport slot use rules have been temporarily suspended and the validity of personnel licenses and certifications has been extended. Urgent financial support from the government is needed now to keep the sector alive, however.

“Aviation is vital for connecting markets and moving people and goods between them,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East. “It is not an indulgence of the rich, but an enabler of economic wealth for everyone. Without a viable air transport sector, recovery will be drawn out and painful. South Africa’s economy had already slowed before the crisis, with unemployment at record levels. Fully supporting aviation now is critical if the economy is to expand at a pace that will make a positive difference to its citizens’ lives.”

Chris Zweigenthal, CEO of AASA noted: “During these extraordinary times, as the South African government announces the relaxation of lockdown from level 4 to level 3, it is important to ensure that aviation is well positioned to be able to provide air services to support business and the traveling public as the economy continues to open up. The concessions and support requested becomes even more critical at the time of the re-start of aviation where there will be pressure on depleted cash reserves to fund operations.”

“It is essential that urgent action is taken now to support airlines and the industry as a whole in these difficult times,” said Zuks Ramasia, CEO of BARSA. “We all need to work together to minimize the impact by creating a platform for recovery from the unprecedented damage being inflicted on international air carriers, including South African airlines. Acting too slowly would result in the post-pandemic economic recovery being seriously impeded by the reduced availability of air transport for both passengers and cargo.”

The associations are also urging the South African government to ensure all businesses from the tourism sector are considered when allocating funds under the small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMME) relief fund as they generate jobs for hundreds of thousands of South Africans and positively impact the livelihoods of millions more.
 

Picture Credit | iStock
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