Solid increase in air traffic, says global airline body
DEMAND for both premium and economy airline seats on the international market rebounded significantly in August, with routes between Africa and the Middle East leading the pack in terms of premium traffic growth, according to an analysis by the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
However, Iata said it was "cautious" to say this improvement would indicate continued growth in the months to come, as the modest incease in business confidence may not be enough to justify a rise of business travel on this scale, and August last year was a weak month.
The number of passengers flying on premium airline seats on international markets rebounded in August, with the market 8.5% higher than a year ago, after being 0.5% lower in July.
Economy class travel was also up significantly from the same period last year, by 6.2% in August, versus July’s 3.0% year-on-year comparison.
While the growth in business travel and premium seating may not be sustained, Iata said there were still robust premium travel markets, with economic growth and trade slowing but still strong in much of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
Premium traffic growth between Africa and the Middle East grew by 32.1% in August compared to a year ago, and is 20.9% higher for the year to date compared to last year, although the August figures were inflated by the timing of Ramadan, which dampened demand in August 2011.
However with the erratic nature of the August rise in premium travel on the international market, Iata said it was "too soon to suggest that growth in business travel will start to trend higher".
In terms of Africa, Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout said at the Airlines Association of Southern Africa’s AGM on Friday the key to growing the continent’s aviation market may be a focus on low-cost travel.
Mr Bezuidenhout said it was critical for Africa to seek international competitiveness through accelerated development and management of aviation infrastructure, as aviation "can change the very nature of Africa’s economy".
"In Africa, low cost aviation may hold the answer to accelerated growth. It is estimated that low cost aviation has grown the overall market in South Africa by 3 million travellers over the past decade and created well over 15,000 employment opportunities in various up and downstream market segments – from direct job creation through tourism and trade by local entrepreneurs," he said.
Aviation in Africa could create as many as 5 million new job opportunities in the next ten years, he said, adding that this could "near triple its economic value to $220 billion".
It was essential to plan and develop aero-infrastructures, focus on safety — which was currently very poor, adopt open skies policies to open up the market, focus on environmental responsibilities, and forge vested interest partnerships to overcome capital requirements.
"It is clear that significant investment is needed, across the board, but I am certain that our continent’s potential is already understood and will be realised," Mr Bezuidenhout said.
In June, diversified investment holding company Lonrho announced it would set up a new low-cost African airline, called Fastjet.
The initiative is in conjunction with EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and EasyGroup.
Fastjet would not operate in SA in the near future, but the group's focus would be on east, west and southern African countries in the short term - an initiative that Lonrho executive chairman David Lenigas said could "change African GDP (gross domestic product) growth".
Mr Bezuidenhout said the launch of Fastjet and Jambo in Kenya showed the low cost model held continued attraction on the continent and growth was "likely to continue along this trend".
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