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African airlines gain global confidence, patronage

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South African Airways

60% of UK, U.S. travellers prefer local airlines for African trip

A new survey has revealed growing global confidence in African aviation, with increasing patronage and opportunity for African airlines to compete internationally.

The research, conducted by the global travel technology provider, Sabre Corporation, observed customers’ confidence in African airlines, with almost six in every 10 travellers from the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) showing preference for African airlines when travelling to the continent.

It will be recalled that African airlines lately improved their safety ranking, following the zero-accident record the industry holds since 2016 till date. According to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) fact-sheet, the chances of crash happening are now 0.39 in Africa, compare to 0.35 per cent global average.

Consequently, seven in every 10 Americans between the ages of 25-34 years now show preference for African airlines, according to Sabre’s findings.

The research also revealed that 60 per cent of Americans aged 25-34 years see African airlines as attractive alternatives to their own countries’ carriers.  Two thirds of these travellers were also confident that the experience, price and customer service on African airlines would be the same as that offered by their own country carriers.

Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Airline Solutions, Sabre, Dino Gelmetti, affirmed that the confidence in African airlines is the highest it has been among some of Africa’s key inbound tourism markets.

Gelmetti said: “This creates a golden opportunity for African airlines to compete globally for inbound passenger traffic, 80 per cent of which is operated by international carriers today.

“Our research also suggests an opportunity for African airlines to target specific groups of travellers – like young Americans – who are already positive about their brands. By investing in technology, airlines can analyse the needs of these travellers and tailor products and services accordingly.”

Sabre’s research, which surveyed 2,000 travellers from the UK and U.S., aimed to identify the challenges and opportunities faced by African airlines, in a bid to help them become profitable.

African airlines posted a combined profit of just $100 million (N3.6 billion) in 2016 – the lowest of all global regions.  Just one carrier on the continent currently makes a significant profit – Ethiopian Airlines.

Travellers from the U.S. and UK share a common interest in Africa – being two of the continent’s largest inbound tourism markets. The two nations also said their three top reasons for choosing a flight were price, schedule and duration.

However, American and British travellers were otherwise different.  Twenty per cent of Brits said they would choose an airline based on its reputation, while 25 per cent of Americans would choose an airline based on loyalty offerings.

British travellers were also much more motivated by price, while Americans considered a wider range of factors when choosing an airline – such as loyalty schemes, in-flight entertainment, onboard technology and reputation.

When travelling to Africa, respondents also expressed an interest in a travel experience that was tailored towards them. This was particularly important for younger American travellers (under 35s) with almost one in five saying they would choose an airline based on this.

An earlier study found that American and European travellers would be willing to spend almost $100 (N36, 000) non extras to personalise their journeys – such as leg room, upgrades and excess baggage.

President of Sabre Network, West Africa, Gbenga Olowo, observed that the positive outlook in aviation was partly due to adoption of IATA’s safety programme, airline members also subject themselves to audit of regulators in other jurisdiction and intensified training and retraining of pilots.



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