Vaccine rollouts are well underway, with some countries already nearing benchmarks for so-called herd immunity and starting to reopen to travelers. Other regions of the world, however, have seen a more sluggish inoculation effort. But in those areas, travel providers such as airlines are coming up with other solutions to safely restart travel.
Across Africa, for instance, airlines are finding innovative ways to build flier confidence. The continent’s air traffic decreased by 89 percent in 2020 according to the International Air Transport Association, and profits across its airlines dropped by $2 billion USD, but nascent signs of a travel rebound are appearing.
“Recovery [of the airline industry] will be much slower in Africa than the rest of the world,” says Adefunke Adeyemi, regional director of advocacy and strategic relations at IATA. “However, Africa is leading the charge in terms of open borders. Fifty countries are currently open on a pre-departure/negative test condition with no quarantine.”
African airlines have been instrumental in the effort to open borders as they seek to get passengers back into the air. Some national carriers like Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, and Kenya Airways are aiming to bring fliers back by testing a new digital COVID-19 passport. Called Trusted Travel Pass, the passport was developed by the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is under the African Union, and will allow travelers to authenticate test results prior to departure.
By logging onto the Trusted Travel Pass portal, passengers can find up-to-date information on the latest travel restrictions and entry requirements by country, laboratory information, and even additional types of vaccinations needed to enter, like yellow fever. COVID-19 vaccine records can also be validated through the portal ahead of travel. Passengers who aren’t fully vaccinated should get tested according to requirements set by their destination’s public health authority and may receive a special seal from the lab operator with their results. The test results or certificates can then be uploaded into the portal where they’ll be verified. Through the Trusted Travel Pass, travelers receive a clearance code that will be verified upon arrival by airport officials.
In January 2021, Kenya Airways became the first of the airlines to adopt the travel pass, which is voluntary for travelers to use. (Airlines will continue to offer online portals for their passengers to upload required entry documents, if they choose not to use the COVID-19 passport.)
“Passengers should feel confident in regard to aviation safety and should be assured that the rules to access other countries are clear and will not cause any disruption,” consulting firm Africa Development Group, said in a recent report on the continent’s aviation industry.
New ideas to jumpstart flights
Air carriers across the continent are finding additional ways to cultivate a sense of safety. In late 2020, Air Maroc, the national carrier for Morocco, announced that it was offering its customers free insurance with the purchase of a ticket before May 31, 2021, assuming the coverage of medical expenses of up to $180,000. This March, Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir became the first African airline to vaccinate all its airline staff, including non-airline staff at the Kigali International Airport.
“RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines in particular have really set excellent standards for innovation in the African market,” Chibuzo Ofulue, co-founder of Africlaim, Africa’s first flight delay compensation company. “If more African airlines do the same, we should expect a much faster recovery in the African aviation industry than predicted.”
In the meantime, carriers have some additional financial runway in the form of bailouts from several African governments. Air Egypt, the national carrier has been given $191 million in long-term financing by the government. Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Burkina Faso have offered $311 million in direct support to their aviation sector. “In Africa, $2.4 billion has been given by African governments to national carriers,” Adeyemi says. “We would like this extended to all carriers as they all need help.”
Other revival measures include waving tourist visa fees and reducing the cost of aviation fuel prices by 10 cents.
Although 2020 was marred by huge dips in profit and the closure of several national carriers like Air Namibia and South African Airways, the overall post-pandemic trend for aviation on the continent will be sweeping growth. On the whole, African airlines that service mostly international travelers will reach 2019 levels of passenger traffic in 2024, according to Emmanuel Chaves, president of Airports Council International, Africa—a prediction that’s in step with projections for recovery in most other regions around the globe.
Additionally, some African countries that did not have national carriers prior to the pandemic seem confident of a resurgence of air travel within and outside the continent. Ghana, Burundi, and Zambia among others have plans to launch national carriers in 2021 or 2022.
“Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to our research, we are expecting to double our 2019 passenger numbers by 2040,” Chaves says.
Source: Read Full Article