Air transport: ICAO estimates losses of African airlines at $14 billion in 2020

If there is one sector of activity where the severity of the health crisis in Africa can best be appreciated, it is that of civil aviation. In 2020, the sector’s performance has been catastrophic and the bloodletting is far from over.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to African transporters, who in 2020 experienced a historic drop in business. According to data published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Friday, January 15, they have lost 14 billion USD in revenue in passenger transport over the past year.
In 2020, the continent’s airlines recorded a drop of 78 million passengers and 58% of their overall capacity compared to 2019. Four African carriers have suspended operations while 2 others have gone into receivership.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), for its part, indicates that 2019 traffic volumes in Africa would not return before 2023. The continent “should experience a late recovery of its financial performance,” she said, deploring the timid support of governments in the region.
On a global scale, passenger traffic has fallen by 60%, “bringing air transport statistics back to the 2003 level”. Concretely, only 1.8 billion people took the plane in 2020, against 4.5 billion in 2019. As a result, the world’s airlines have globally lost 370 billion USD, airports 115 billion USD, and air service providers 13 billion USD.
“With the border closures and travel restrictions put in place worldwide in April, the total number of passengers fell by 92% compared to 2019; 98% for international traffic and 87% for domestic transport,” says ICAO.
“After reaching the low point in April, passenger traffic rebounded moderately during the summer period. However, this upward trend was short-lived, stagnating and then worsening in September when the second wave of infection in many regions prompted the reintroduction of restrictive measures,” the UN agency said.
Many African airlines, already very fragile even before the advent of the pandemic, risk bankruptcy. This is the case of South African Airways, which is almost bankrupt. Kenya Airways is going through a difficult phase with heavy losses that have pushed the Kenyan authorities to start its nationalization.
Royal Air Maroc, with a loss of more than 320 million euros, has put in place a restructuring plan with 858 job cuts announced, of which more than 600 have already left the company in the context of economic redundancies and voluntary departures, the sale of aircraft to reduce the fleet and reduce operating costs, etc.
Even Ethiopian Airways, the strongest airline on the continent, has recorded colossal revenue losses in 2020, despite its rapid adaptation to the crisis with its focus on cargo transport and the repatriation of Africans stranded in many countries.
Faced with this situation, several governments flew to the rescue of their national flags to avoid bankruptcy. However, according to experts, it will take some time for companies to return to pre-pandemic levels.
According to the ICAO, at the global level, in 2020 only 1.8 billion people flew, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019, a 150% drop. The losses of the world’s airlines are estimated at 370 billion dollars. A situation that has led the world’s airlines to ground their fleets.

About Khalid Al Mouahidi 3119 Articles
Khalid Al Mouahidi : A binational from the US and Morocco, Khalid El Mouahidi has worked for several american companies in the Maghreb Region and is currently based in Casablanca, where he is doing consulting jobs for major international companies . Khalid writes analytical pieces about economic ties between the Maghreb and the Mena Region, where he has an extensive network