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Flarepath March 2017 By: Tom Chalmers

Light at the end of the tunnel?

CONTINUED PRESSURE by the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and bodies such as the African Airlines Association and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa and others, on African governments to “come to the party” and assist the airline industry in this continent to gain a more realistic position in the development of Africa’s 50-odd countries, seems at last to be taking effect.

These organisations have been pleading for years with governments to reduce taxation – especially airport fees – on the airline industry and provide improved infrastructure to enable the continent’s airlines to provide a more cost-effective and dynamic service for the benefit of all.

True, the record of governments’ change in attitude towards the airline industry is still minute compared with what it should be, but at least it has started. For example, new airports and the rehabilitation of existing ones have been reported in several countries of late – countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Ghana to name just a few. For example: Zimbabwe has just opened the new Victoria Falls International Airport and its government has indicated that this will be the first of several airports scheduled for rehabilitation in the near future.

Zambia, too, is hard at work with either building next airports, such as the one at Ndola, or rehabilitating many others, mainly its international gateways to the country. Ghana announced last month that it would soon be opening two new airports to improve domestic services in the west and east of the country. And there are others, too, such as Malawi and Tanzania, to name just two.

However, leading the continent’s countries in the drive to improve airport infrastructure, must surely be Kenya which is well into a massive overhaul and expansion of its airport infrastructure which left delegates attending the recent “Modern Airport Africa” conference held in Nairobi, amazed by its extent (see Page 81 for a full report).

South Africa’s airport company, ACSA, recently took the lead in reducing taxation by cutting airport fees at all the airports it operates by up to 35,5% effective next month for the 2017/18 Financial Year, although it did say that the reduction would only last for a year, promising “slight” increases for at least the following two years, namely 5,8% in the 2018/19 and 7,4% in the 2019/20 Financial Years (see Page 74 in the January edition of World Airnews for the full story). At least this is a start with still a long way to go before it reaches a stage when airlines can truly feel the effects and contribute in part to the growth of the continent.

As recently as last month, IATA called on the Middle East and North Africa to highlight four main priorities which must be addressed for aviation to deliver maximum economic and social benefits. The association was addressing the annual conference of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation in Casablanca at the time.

As is shown in the report on the conference on Page 38 of this edition, these priorities are: Firstly: sufficient and affordable infrastructure capacity (including air traffic management) aligned with other needs; Secondly, curbing the spate of unprecedented increases in taxes and charges over the past year; Thirdly: Aligning consumer protection regulations with global standards and, lastly, enhancing security efforts.

Although this was presented to the Morocco meeting, its implications are continent-wide. IATA stressed that by meeting these priorities a major change for the better would become evident not only in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, but also through the continent and its adjoining countries.

But there is more to be tackled in the priority list as outlined by IATA. For example, the extraordinary cost of fuel, on average way above world standards. Fuel shortages fall into this category as well, the situation in Nigeria being a typical example.

There is also the crippling effect of African governments clamping down on foreign exchange and refusing to release these funds – generated by ticket sales and other means – to the foreign and other airlines which are rightfully theirs— resulting in extreme hardships for those airlines affected so much so that many are on the brink of bankruptcy – not an ideal situation when the industry is striving to improve conditions and just survive................................... To read the full article please subscribe to our E Magazine Here.

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