The return of domestic passenger air services, albeit on a limited basis, is a positive development for the country’s economy, says the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA).
With the bulk of air cargo flown in passenger aircraft, it also bodes well for airfreight capacity and will ease some of the pressure on the cargo sector.
According to AASA CEO, Chris Zweigenthal, the opening of air services will make a meaningful contribution to the recovery of the economy.
Some flights are allowed to be resumed under Covid-19 level 3 restrictions on the main trunk routes linking Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Stringent health and bio security conditions will be in effect.
“It is crucial that the new systems are given appropriate capacity by Port Health, so they can be stress-tested as quickly and rigorously as possible.
Only then will the reconnection of other inland and coastal cities be phased in.
The sooner this occurs, the better as survival of airlines and their ability to support the repair of the local and national economies are entirely dependent on this,” said Zweigenthal.
Every SA-based airline intending to operate under the latest regulations must first submit their Covid-19 health and safety protocol and procedures, a flight schedule and request for departure and arrival slots to the SA Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Company South Africa and Air Traffic Navigation Services respectively for approval before they are entitled to fly.
Zweigenthal said a lead time was therefore necessary for authorisation to be given and plans to be put in place.
“The start-up phase will be difficult for all carriers as it involves significant financial outlays before any revenues have been generated.
“Most carriers worldwide, including South Africa, only had about two months of cash reserves in late March 2020, when the travel restrictions were imposed, bringing the industry to a sudden halt.”