With the gradual reopening of air borders , there are still many uncertainties about where air traffic is returning to normal to and from Africa.
After more than three months without flying, airline companies are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Virtually all African countries, including Nigeria have resumed domestic operations. Since 25 June, Royal Air Maroc began operating a portion of its domestic flights (Agadir, Dakhla, Laâyoune and Oujda) from its Casablanca hub, followed by its other hubs, Marrakech and Tangier. The low-cost airline Air Arabia Maroc l also resumed operations on the same date, while Air Côte d’Ivoire reopened for business on 26 June.
However, for many airlines, the situation is less certain. The pan-African carrier ASKY Airlines, which provides service to destinations from Lomé, is waiting for African countries to open their borders before making any announcements. Similarly, Air Algérie has not announced an operations resumption date. Plagued by major financial difficulties, Air Mauritius is set to get back to business on 1 September, whereas RwandAir has suspended its flights until further notice.
On 25 June, Egypt Air made efforts to resume international flights gradually although key operations started in July. The first round from 1 – 7 July included: Abu Dhabi, Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto and Washington DC (among others).
Since 8 June, South Africa’s Airlink began taking bookings, while Safair began flights on 15 June. Mango, the low-cost airline of the near bankrupt South African Airways (SAA) group, also resumed domestic flights as of 15 June.
South Africa has banned leisure travel until the 5-phase lockdown is entirely lifted. It is currently at level 3.
The questions has always been when South African Airways will be able to resume international flights given it was struggling with bankruptcy prior to the pandemic. A vote by SAA creditors has been postponed to 16 July.
In the intercontinental segment, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways started providing service to Paris, Geneva and Brussels from the beginning of July, but with a heavily reduced flight schedule. After a controversy sparked by the posting of a fake flight schedule on social media in May, Air France has listed several African capitals in its flight plan for July: Conakry, Cotonou, Douala, Yaoundé, Nouakchott and Tunis. The airline is currently preparing landing authorisation requests for the various countries concerned.
Resurrecting flights from Europe is pinned on both the ability to receive authorisation from national civil aviation authorities and the reopening of the Schengen Area. In mid-June, the ECOWAS Ministerial Coordinating Committee for Transport, Logistics, Free Movement and Trade recommended a gradual reopening of air borders: 15 July for flights between member states, 22 July for flights to non-member African countries and 1 August for intercontinental flights.
These projected dates come up against two obstacles: the health situation is neither clear nor stabilised in several African countries and fears about a second wave remain high in Europe. As a result, no one wants to be responsible for potentially importing cases in either direction.
Airlines know that it will take a while for business to return to pre-pandemic levels. Air Côte d’Ivoire, whose operations are currently limited to domestic destinations (Korogho, San Pedro, Bouaké, Man and Odienné), accordingly plans on a gradual return to its normal service schedule: in a first phase, 25% of flights will resume, before increasing to 50%, all the while having no intention of giving up its expansion strategy in the long-haul segment.
Another example is that of Air Senegal, which resumed its service to Ziguinchor in June, a destination it will get back to serving daily in July. While Senegal’s borders are to remain closed until 30 June, the young company, which sent all of its pilots to France to take a “refresher” flight simulator course, plans, according to our sources, to resume flights to Abidjan (four times a week, initially) and to Praia in mid-July. Air Senegal hopes to get back to operating flights to destinations such as Conakry, Bamako, Casablanca, Barcelona and Marseille in early August, and, starting in September, Ouagadougou, Niamey, Accra and Lagos. This means the airline could be operating 80% of its pre-pandemic flights at the end of August. Air Senegal will begin offering daily service to Abidjan in October, if traffic allows for it. (theafricareport.com)