The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) governments to accelerate vaccination programmes. AASA, an organisation that represents many airlines in the SADC region, said the fast-tracking of the vaccination programmes would offer “urgent financial relief” to the air travel and tourism sector following the impact of the pandemic.
AASA CEO Chris Zweigenthal said the second waves of infections, the new variant identified in South Africa and the slow pace of the vaccination roll out in the region were some of the factors that were hindering travellers’ confidence and travel plans.
As a result, many foreign airlines couldn’t carry passengers to and from the region’s key markets. “The effect has been to starve our domestic carriers of their traditional feeder business. At the same time, airlines still have to cover their fixed costs for items like aircraft financing, insurance, maintenance, office premises, staff salaries, recurrent training, IT systems, etc. No airlines are immune,” he said.
Zweigenthal wanted governments to provide financial support to airlines and other service providers in the air transport value chain on an “ownership-agnostic basis”.He explained that governments should assist the sector through exemptions on levies and statutory charges, deferring taxes, reducing airlines’ administrative burden and streamlining bureaucracy.
“Economic recovery is dependent on-air transport connecting the region with its foreign trade and tourism markets. AASA is supporting efforts to enable governments in the region to replace arbitrary travel bans with standardised Covid-19 tests and introduce secure tools for the validation of traveller’s test and vaccination status. This will enable Southern African and foreign travellers to safely fly to their desired destinations under the UN’s World Health Organisation and International Civil Aviation Organisation jointly recommended and proven health and safety protocols that mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission by air travel.
Standardisation is vital. It would be disastrous if every government developed its own set of standards and requirements. That would create confusion, unnecessary hassle and delay not only the recovery of air travel and tourism but economies at large.Air travel is intrinsic to the functioning of any modern and dynamic economy,” said Zweigenthal.
Many countries have added South Africa to their travel ban list. The latest being the US, which added South Africa to its ‘Do Not Travel’ list due to “the coronavirus pandemic, crime and civil unrest in the country”.