Opinion: What will the Single African Air Market mean for travel?

By Luis Mata, Wings head of business development energy for SSA

Many passengers are being denied the chance to travel within Africa every year because of unnecessary restrictions on establishing air routes. Employment and economic growth are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of connectivity, while aviation plays a major role in helping to fulfil an integrated and prosperous Africa. The impending opening of air traffic in Africa will make air travel more affordable to more people and stimulate traffic flows between various countries. 

Additional jobs, economic activity created directly by the airlines, and indirectly by an open skies framework, will facilitate increased trade, investment, business, tourism and productivity, and will drive faster GDP growth. We remain concerned that this might impact negatively on the already struggling local carriers.

The continent is home to roughly 12% of the world’s population and will be responsible for most of the population growth over the next few decades, and yet only accounts for one percent of the world’s air travel market. Flying around Africa has its challenges, such as legal barriers, regulatory hurdles, inadequate infrastructure and high taxes. Commercial flights are infrequent, expensive and circuitous. To get from one country to another, African travellers may have to go miles out of their way and transfer through the Middle East or Europe. 

Wings has many customers in Africa and we take note of the EU banned carrier list, which restricts us to using only 70% of African carriers. The open skies policy will allow us to provide more travel options for our customers, facilitating direct flights and budget savings. As always, Wings will continue to adhere to our safety-first policy. Wings’ wholly owned global offices aid in facilitating the ease of our clients to travel within Africa as travel tickets can be sourced from various offices, reducing costs. This may be limiting to other TMCs who do not operate on a wholly owned global basis.  

Many airlines decreased frequencies into Africa during the downturn and bad economic periods, but we are slowly seeing these airlines refill those schedules. Even during lean periods, Wings has been able to accommodate our customers by cross selling out of other regions when in-country airline inventory was taken.  

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