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AU Passport would provide boon to Intra-Africa air travel

Southern Africa Tourism Update  reports on new study by the international airline organization IATA  and the AU efforts to expand inter and intra connectivity of Africa’s airports and countries.

IATA announced a 26.1% year-on-year rise in African air traffic; a leading aviation analytics firm believes that the adoption of an African Union (AU) Passport would stimulate even further growth of the sector.

IATA found that, in August 2023, flights in the African region were on average 76% full, while global air passenger traffic had recovered to 95.7% of pre-COVID levels.

Meanwhile, considering that East Africa is rapidly growing into the continent’s busiest aviation region, AeroTrail has conducted a comprehensive study of the main airports in the seven East African Community (EAC) member countries.

One of the key findings of the study was that the establishment of an EAC single tourist visa allowing for smoother travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda (along with the recognition of national IDs as valid travel documents between the countries), had resulted in these three nations emerging as the primary regional routes in terms of weekly available airline seats.

“This observation leads to the inference that the adoption of the AU Passport and the facilitation of unrestricted movement of individuals across the continent are poised to exert a significant influence on intra-Africa air travel,” said AeroTrail.

The EAC enjoys global connectivity through an extensive network of international airports, the majority of which are strategically located in or proximate to the region’s major urban centers. In total, the region boasts a network of over 500 airports and airstrips, each with varying degrees of airline operations.

Kenya’s principal aviation hub, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, emerges as the region’s most extensively connected airport. It plays a pivotal role, accounting for approximately 44.4% of total passengers processed. The airport services around 27 airlines that offer direct (point-to-point) flights, extending connectivity to roughly 54 destinations both within Africa and beyond.

‘Competition leads to stability’

Comparing airports serving major destinations, AeroTrail made the observation that the Nairobi-Dubai route, for example, offered some of the most competitive fares when contrasted with other airports servicing the same destination city.

“This phenomenon can be attributed to various factors, foremost among them being the heightened demand and fierce competition along this route. Consequently, this competition leads to greater stability in passenger numbers for the airlines operating on this corridor,” the report states.

In contrast, routes with only a single airline in operation tend to exhibit higher fare costs. For instance, the top nine priciest intercontinental routes lack competition, and this trend extends to regional and domestic flights as well.

AeroTrail said valuable insights could also be gleaned from competitive intra-Africa routes such as the Johannesburg-Kinshasa route, which is served by SAA, Asky Airlines and Air Côte d’Ivoire, with the latter two airlines operating under fifth freedom rights.  

“The intense competition engendered by these three airlines renders this intra-Africa route comparatively more economical. While this observation offers a glimpse into how airspace liberalization and the granting of fifth freedom rights can stimulate competition and drive down air travel costs, it is imperative to underscore that a comprehensive study is warranted.”

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