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Airlines rally government, regulators to post-restriction plan

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NCAA in talks with local carriers
• Passenger traffic demand plunges 52.9 per cent

Airlines have urged governments and civil aviation regulators to begin post-restriction and recovery plans to get the aviation industry out of the woods.

The airlines, under the aegis of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the fate of global air travel lies not in the misfortunes of the coronavirus pandemic, but how well the stakeholders cooperate to mitigate its effects.

The operators made the call as IATA announced global passenger traffic results for March 2020 showing that demand dived 52.9 per cent compared to the year-ago period.

African airlines’ traffic fell 42.8 per cent in March, which was a huge deterioration from a 1.1 per cent decline in February. Capacity dropped 32.9 per cent, and load factor contracted 10.5 percentage points to 60.8 per cent.

IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, yesterday said the industry was in free fall but yet to hit the bottom.

“But there will come a time—soon, I hope—when authorities will be ready to begin easing restrictions on mobility and opening borders. It is imperative that governments work with industry now to prepare for that day.

“It is the only way to ensure that we have measures in place to keep passengers safe during travel and reassure governments that aviation will not be a vector in the spread of the disease. We must also avoid the confusion and complexity that followed by 9.11. Global standards that are mutually accepted and operationally practicable will be mission-critical to achieving this. The only way to get there is by working together,” de Juniac said.

Apparently in line with airlines’ expectations, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) confirmed that it was in routine talks with the local airlines, in compliance with standards of operations despite restriction in commercial operations.

The Spokesperson of the apex regulatory body, Sam Adurogboye, said the essence was to ensure compliance with routine maintenance and safety programmes of the aircraft and personnel, towards seamless return to flights services when the restriction is lifted.

IATA, however, acknowledged that the passenger traffic decline was the largest dip in recent history, reflecting the impact of government actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In seasonally adjusted terms, global passenger volumes returned to levels last seen in 2006. March capacity fell by 36.2 per cent and load factor plummeted 21.4 percentage points to 60.6 per cent.

“March was a disastrous month for aviation. Airlines progressively felt the growing impact of the COVID-19 related border closings and restrictions on mobility, including in domestic markets. Demand was at the same level it was in 2006 but we have the fleets and employees for double that. Worse, we know that the situation deteriorated even more in April and most signs point to a slow recovery,” de Juniac said.

March international passenger demand shrank 55.8 per cent compared to March 2019. That is much worse than the10.3 per cent year-to-year decline in February. All regions recorded double-digit percentage of of traffic declines. Capacity tumbled 42.8 per cent, and load factor plunged 18.4 percentage points to 62.5 per cent.

Asia-Pacific airlines led the decliners, as March traffic dropped 65.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period, which was more than double the 30.7 per cent decline in February. Capacity fell 51.4 per cent and load factor collapsed 23.4 percentage points to 57.1 per cent.

European carriers saw March demand fall 54.3 per cent year-to-year. In February, traffic was virtually flat compared to February the prior year. Capacity dropped 42.9 per cent, and load factor sank 16.8 percentage points to 67.6 per cent, which was the highest among regions.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 45.9 per cent traffic decrease in March, reversing a 1.6 per cent increase in February. Capacity slid 33.5 per cent, and load factor dropped 13.7 percentage points to 59.9 per cent.

North American carriers’ traffic dived 53.7 per cent compared to March a year ago, dramatically worsened from a 2.9 per cent drop in February compared to February 2019. Capacity fell 38.1 per cent, and load factor sank by 21.1 percentage points to 62.8 per cent.

Latin American airlines experienced a 45.9 per cent demand drop in March, compared to the same month last year; in February traffic declined 0.2 per cent year-to-year. Capacity fell 33.5 per cent and load factor sagged 15.3 percentage points to 66.5 per cent.


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