May 25, 2022

IATA official concerned that SA air services guidance remains ‘frozen’

South Africa’s domestic and international air services boards have been “frozen” since March. (Stock)

  • The International Air Transport Association’s Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East is visiting Johannesburg.
  • Kamil Alawadhi met with a number of airlines and local aeronautical entities as well as the Ministry of Transport.
  • raised a variety of key issues, including the urgency of re-establishing SA’s Air Services Councils, assistance to the aviation sector, the implementation of a country travel pass and the search for greater connectivity on the continent.

A senior representative of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the government to set up key aviation councils.

South Africa has not had an International Air Services Council (IASC) since March this year.

The IASC adjudicates applications for licenses and permits to operate air services to and from South Africa. The country’s National Air Services Board – which assists with licensing processes and controls relating to local air services – is also not in place.

The Minister of Transport is responsible for appointing a chair of the IASC and appointing at least four other members, but this has not yet been done.

Kamil Alawadhi, IATA’s regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East, told a press briefing on Thursday that he had a “fruitful” meeting with deputy transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga. .

According to Alawadhi, she assured him that it was one of her priorities to re-establish South Africa’s Domestic and International Air Services Boards as soon as possible.

“We were concerned that both councils have been ‘frozen’ since March. The deputy assured me that she was working diligently to get both councils up and running. This will be good for both domestic and international carriers,” a- he declared. “Most airlines are already planning where they want to operate next year and how often. They need approval from these two councils.”

Aviation industry members told Fin24 that the lack of guidance has left the already struggling aviation industry in a more chaotic state as airlines wait for their air traffic rights applications to be processed.

Alawadhi also raised the issue of potential financial assistance for the local airline industry as a whole and said the subject had been “handled very well” by the Ministry of Transport.

“States help their airlines in different ways. This may include relief from taxes and charges. arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, it has decided to suspend such implementation of higher charges and will only review it next year,” Alawadhi said.

“We had some concerns about aviation in South Africa given the turbulent times. South Africa’s aviation industry generated over $9 billion in 2019 – around 3.2% of the country’s GDP country – which was huge for an economy the size of South Africa. Now it’s down to about $3 billion. At the same time, I’m relatively confident that South African aviation is heading in the good direction.

Alawadhi is positive about the potential of using the IATA Travel Pass to help open borders to and from South Africa.

“Airlines and the South African government have assured me that they are moving towards a travel pass and we look forward to hearing positive news on this soon,” he said.

Pan African Air Group

Asked about South African Airways’ (SAA) long-term goal of looking at creating some kind of pan-African airline group, Alawadhi said SAA had just restarted and with a clean slate.

SAA and Kenya Airways announced earlier this week that they were signing a memorandum of cooperation and that a pan-African airline group could ultimately “enhance mutual growth potential by leveraging the strengths of both airlines’ busy hubs. “. The agreement does not, however, prevent either airline from pursuing commercial cooperation with other carriers as part of their route network strategy.

“SAA is starting operations cautiously so as not to burn too much cash with the current anemic demand for air traffic. Reaching an agreement with Kenya Airways could bring benefits to both airlines. This type of arrangement is quite common to open up destinations and gain market share,” Alawadhi said.

Another issue of importance to Alawadhi is interconnectivity on the African continent moving forward with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). The intention of SAATM is to remove restrictions on bilateral agreements between African states and to promote competition.

“We want to bring all 55 African states around the same table to discuss their concerns. Moving forward with SAATM requires involving at least five stakeholders per country, including transport ministries and key airlines. We’re hoping to do that maybe in the first quarter of 2022, but also aiming for a first meeting in early December,” he said.

“If you liberalize airspace in Africa through formal agreements like there are in the EU, the only restrictions for airlines will be whether an airport can handle traffic. This should boost connectivity across the continent, simplify air travel and reduce costs”.