Africa's airline traffic continues to lag the world

Extremely slow vaccination rates are hindering Africa’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the continent’s main airline representative body said.

Surging infection rates are cutting into the ability of airlines to increase passenger numbers and reinstate routes, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) said.

In Africa, just 1.85% of the population has been fully vaccinated, compared to around 24.6% globally. “The number of deaths continues to rise, while vaccination is progressing at a snail's pace, thus causing concerns among the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors on recovery,” the organization said in an update on the air travel situation on the continent.

AFRAA reported that August air passenger traffic in Africa was at 46.8% of August 2019 levels, while capacity was at 54.6% of pre-pandemic levels.

Collective domestic air traffic in Africa in August was 58.9% of August 2019 levels compared to 22.7% for intra-Africa flying and 18.4% for intercontinental flights.

Almost 78% of August 2019’s intercontinental routes were being operated again in August 2021, although frequency and capacity remained constrained, AFRAA said. Intercontinental traffic rose 3.1% month-over-month from July to August.

Airlines that added new intercontinental routes to their operations in August included Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and Kenya Airways. Notably, AFRAA said, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and RwandAir are now operating to about 90% of their pre-COVID-19 intercontinental destinations.

Photo credit: Rob Finlayson

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.