The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), held its 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) virtually this week.
The AGM was initially supposed to be hosted in Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park but had to be moved online due to the covid19 pandemic.
In his keynote address AASA chief executive, Chris Zweigenthal highlighted the devastating effects of the Coronavirus to the aviation, travel and hospitality industries.
“Two of our airline members, South African Airways and SA Express, were placed in business rescue last December and this February respectively. And in April, shortly after the lockdowns brought business to a virtual standstill, Comair voluntarily followed them”.
Zweigenthal called on for the southern African states to provide bailout the struggling industry.
“AASA has been lobbying governments to provide financial relief for its member airlines. We supported the global call made by IATA and approached governments in our members’ countries, requesting relief in the form of loans, loan guarantees, tax relief and cash injections – either as equity, or to assist with liquidity challenges, for example with subsidies for wages and other essential expenses,” he said.
To help fight the further spread of the virus, AASA called for the implementation of guidelines for the safe resumption of air travel and tourism which were developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation-led “Civil Aviation Recovery Taskforce” (CART) in partnership with IATA and WHO.
Both Zimbabwe and South Africa recently reopened their borders to international flights joining several other countries in the region.
Zweigenthal bemoaned the lack of collaboration among states in resuming air services and called on governments to replace quarantine with testing.
“Unfortunately, despite the CART’s intentions, governments are developing their own standards for testing of passengers and crew, quarantining and determining principles for approving who may travel and between which countries. This does not bode well for the aviation, travel and tourism industry, potentially putting even more jobs at risk, creating hardship and delaying the economic recovery”.
Addressing the AGM Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Member and External Relations, noted that, airline revenues from Southern African countries are forecast to decline by 60% in 2020 while passenger numbers are seen falling by 58%.
Four airlines in the region have entered administration since the crisis began. Without urgent government relief, more carriers and their employees are at risk, as is the wider African air transport industry, which supports 7.7 million jobs on the continent.
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