How Dubai Airshow showed aviation is flying high again

The Dubai Airshow, a bellwether for the global aviation industry’s health, showcased the sector’s strong return to growth following the Covid-19 pandemic as airlines sealed multibillion-dollar deals for jets and signalled their confidence in the longevity of air travel demand.

The biennial global aerospace exhibition, which ended on Friday, was heaving with visitors throughout the week, as more than 115,000 people attended.

Global aircraft manufacturers secured deals, reconnected with customers at crowded chalets overlooking the DWC airport apron and expressed optimism about the continued growth of the industry.

This was all despite the headwinds of geopolitics, higher fuel prices, inflationary pressures, supply-chain bottlenecks and economic uncertainty – though these were also key topics of discussion at the industry event.

If the 2021 Dubai Airshow demonstrated signs of recovery from the pandemic, which brought the worst crisis in the industry’s history, then this year’s event highlighted its resilient return to sustainable growth.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, summed up this sentiment at the Dubai Airshow gala dinner on Thursday night.

“We’re back!” he proclaimed to a gathering of the aviation industry’s elite, attended by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

“The emotional heart of this fabulous industry here in the UAE beats more strongly and more optimistically than ever before,” said Mr. Griffiths.

The Dubai Airshow’s host airline Emirates, along with its sister carrier flydubai, led the orders for commercial jets and underlined the recovery in the wide-body aircraft market, as long-haul travel makes a strong comeback.

Emirates ordered 110 aircraft worth $58 billion at list prices, while flydubai ordered 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliner wide-bodies valued at $11 billion. Customers typically get significant discounts, particularly for large orders.

Flydubai’s surprise order for 787s marks the first time it has introduced wide-bodies to its fleet.

The Dreamliners will give the airline the ability to reach markets beyond the range of its current all-Boeing fleet of 737 narrow-bodies.

“It gives us big opportunities,” airline chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith told reporters.

“The airline is now nearly 15 years old, the 787 will be delivered in 2026 and by then we will be 18 years old.

“At that stage the airline would reach a point of maturity and we can grow in more markets.

“In terms of flight movements, we have great confidence.

“In our experience in flydubai, we flew to several points where we created demand to Dubai and people came. Dubai and the UAE are attractive markets and we have great confidence that any market we operate with the 787 will add positive value to Dubai and to the country.”

The two UAE carriers dominated the air expo with their order splash.

“The Dubai Airshow 2023 signifies a significant step in the aviation industry’s return to growth, following the initial recovery signals sent by the 2021 edition,” Linus Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, told The National.

“The 2023 show demonstrated a robust resurgence in industry confidence, marked by numerous high-value aircraft deals, cutting-edge technological showcases and a strong focus on sustainability and innovation.”

While the highlights were the deals by Emirates and flydubai, a “number of interesting orders from other airlines including Air Baltic and EgyptAir [gave] the show a broadly upbeat and optimistic tone”, said John Strickland, head of UK-based JLS Consulting.

The most significant deals

Boeing overtook its European rival Airbus with the biggest haul of aircraft orders at the Dubai Airshow this week, mainly due to its historically stronger portfolio of wide-body jets that are popular with major Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

The US plane maker surged ahead with firm orders for 214 aircraft including its 777X, 737 Max and 787 Dreamliners, with options for up to 83 additional jets.

While Emirates and flydubai made up the lion’s share of these deals, other Boeing customers at the airshow included SunExpress, Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Maroc, Scat Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and EgyptAir.

“We believe that the volume of orders that have been placed with us this week is testament to the value that our airline partners put on Boeing’s advanced engineering and systems capabilities, and also a vote of confidence in our ability to deliver the [aircraft] that they require to serve their customers for decades to come,” Omar Arekat, Boeing’s vice president of commercial sales and marketing in the Middle East, told The National.

“The future of aviation is brighter than ever.”

Airbus, meanwhile, left the air show with firm orders for 66 aircraft including 15 A350-900s by Emirates, 11 A350-900s by Ethiopian Airlines, 10 A350-900s by EgyptAir and 30 A220-300s by Air Baltic.

The European plane maker secured the deal with Emirates for the A350-900s in the last minute on the penultimate day of the Dubai Airshow, three days after Boeing made big announcements at the opening of the expo.

The order came after differences between Emirates and engine-maker Rolls-Royce stood in the way of a deal for the larger A350-1000 model at the Dubai Airshow.

The airline was seeking guarantees from the UK manufacturer on the maintenance cost of the engines for the A350-1000 and their performance in harsh desert conditions.

Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB-84 powers the smaller A350-900s, while the Trent XWB-97 engines powers the A350-1000s.

Meanwhile, General Electric’s aerospace unit said it won new orders for 454 engines during the Dubai Airshow. This includes Emirates order of 202 additional GE9X engines to power its 777X aircraft and 240 CFM LEAP engines for Air Arabia to power the carrier’s order of 120 Airbus A320neo family of aircraft ordered in 2019.

Source: The National News

Google Maps to Remove Dangerous South African Route Following Tourist Incidents

In a significant move, Google has decided to eliminate a route to Nyanga, one of South Africa’s most violent townships, from its navigation platform, Google Maps. This decision comes in the wake of several dangerous incidents involving tourists who were directed to Nyanga as the shortest route to their destinations.

Incidents Prompting the Change

Among those affected was an American tourist, Walter Fischel, who was shot in the face and robbed, and a British surgeon who was tragically killed in August when they were inadvertently re-routed into the township due to road closures. These life-threatening situations highlighted the need for safer navigation systems and triggered Google’s decision to revisit its route recommendations.

Google’s Response and Future Plans

Responding to these incidents, Google is working in collaboration with the South African government and local authorities to understand crime hotspots. The tech giant plans to incorporate new security alerts in Google Maps to help users navigate safely. The partnership also involves digital training for tourism stakeholders and data sharing to provide an overview of tourism trends.

Impact on South African Tourism

The decision to remove potentially dangerous routes from Google Maps is seen as a part of a broader effort to boost South African tourism. South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, co-signed the collaboration with the head of Google South Africa, Alistair Mokoena, with the objective of enhancing the safety and experience of local and international tourists. The move is expected to significantly increase the confidence of travelers relying on navigation systems like Google Maps while exploring South Africa.

Source: Bnn.

Kenya, Uganda to deepen tourism cooperation

Increased promotion of key tourism sites available in the two countries tipped to help increase the number of tourists between the two East African Community member states.

“A big section of the population, including tourism stakeholders, is not aware of the rich and diverse products in each other’s countries, even when the two countries remain each other’s top tourist source markets,” said John Mulimba, Uganda Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation.

Speaking at the 2nd Uganda-Kenya Coast Tourism Conference in Kwale County, which targets to consolidate networks, synergies, and diversity to maximize the tourism potential between the two countries, Mulimba said the two countries still have untapped tourism potential which if well highlighted could boost the numbers.

“We can move beyond the 370,000 Kenyans who visited Uganda last year, and the 150,000 Ugandans who visited Kenya last year. All we need is to work together, to ensure that we make this partnership work,” he added.

Majority of Kenyans who visited Uganda last year visited for sporting events such as golf and rugby tournaments, festivals and music concerts.

Kenya intends to market its sandy beaches, marine parks, game drives, sky diving and deep seas diving among other tourism products in Uganda while the latter targets to market its mountain gorillas, tree climbing lions and over 1063 bird species in national parks to potential Kenyan visitors.

“The conference theme depicts the importance of building synergies and complementarity based on the different tourism products bought by Uganda and Kenya cost,” added Fatuma Achani, Governor of Kwale County.

Already, more than 200 delegations from Uganda are set to embark on a coastal tour to sample various products and create networks with their Kenyan counterparts.

Source: KBC.

Trevor Noah Launches Charm Offensive in FAQ Ad About South Africa

Trevor Noah, world-renowned comedian and 2024 Grammy nominee for best comedy album, has taken on a new title: ‘chief tourism comedian for South Africa.’

In a new tourism campaign entitled “The Best of Us,” launched in partnership with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) Thursday, Noah uses his unique brand of humor to tackle frequently asked questions about his homeland.

The campaign kicks off with Noah walking poolside at a holiday home with the iconic Table Mountain in the background as he addresses common misconceptions and queries, he often gets about South Africa. “How cold and snowy is your Christmas?” he jests, “Well, Tracy, unfortunately, we can’t afford snow in South Africa. Nah, I’m just playing. We’re in the southern hemisphere, which means when it’s freezing in Connecticut, it’s fantastic in Cape Town.”

Noah’s ad doesn’t just answer quirky questions; it also highlights South Africa’s diverse attractions, from spectacular wildlife scenes in Kruger National Park to adrenaline-packed activities like bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge, surfing in Durban’s Golden Mile, shark cage diving in Gansbaai, and high-end golf courses along the Garden Route.

The campaign aims to boost international tourism to South Africa, as the country targets 21 million visitors by 2035, according to TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. Noah’s global appeal and South African roots make him an ideal ambassador to showcase the country’s diverse tourism offerings, added Tshivhengwa.

Last year, South Africa saw 5.8 million inbound international tourists. The country has seen a significant increase in arrivals this year, with over 6.1 million visitors by September, with its peak summer season still ahead. European and UK visitors remain the largest source market, with  862,000 arrivals between January and September, a 50.9% increase in arrivals compared to the same period in 2022. Furthermore, the Americas have shown a notable uptick in interest, with a 59.0% increase in arrivals, led primarily by 206,015 visitors from the United States between January and July.

The campaign debuted across social media platforms and garnered over 66,700 views on TBCSA’s YouTube channel shortly after its launch. Noah has over 8.6 million followers on Instagram and has just launched a podcast called What Now – he has, however, not yet shared the “The Best of Us” video to his Instagram grid.

Noah’s South Africa ad follows another tourism ad he did earlier in the year. Noah joined Switzerland tourism ambassador Roger Federer to promote train travel across the alpine nation, below.

Source: Skift

Free Routing Airspace in Africa inches closer to reality

Free Routing Airspace in Africa inches closer to reality with trial flights kicking off on November 2 2023.

Cooperation, collaboration, and commitment of stakeholders, including CANSO, AFRAA, IATA, ICAO, and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), made free routing flights a reality for the first time.

In the Free Routing Airspace (FRA) Trial kick-off workshop, participants coordinated with all relevant operational services and secured approvals for the two trial flights. Shortening the flight time, flights ET935 and KQ 508 operated safely outside the existing routes directly from Addis Ababa to Abidjan and Nairobi to Accra, respectively.

Implementing the Free Routing Airspace will annually bring significant cost savings to the participating airlines and will support a sustainable future for the African Industry. Cumulating over a year, the shortened flight time on one of these one-way flights avoids burning 292 metric tonnes of fuel, prevents the emission of 340 metric tonnes of CO2, and reduces the operator’s fuel bill by an estimated USD310,000. Assuming similar savings on the return leg, extending free routing flights to 20 daily flights, the operators’ CO2 footprint will be reduced by 5 million metric tonnes, and the airlines will cut more than USD 1.2 million from their fuel bill.

The project kick-off workshop was graciously sponsored by AFREXIMBANK. Various ANSPs provided navigation services to the historic flights, including: Ethiopia CAA, Kenya CAA, CAA Uganda, RVA (DRC), ASECNA, NAMA (Nigeria), and Ghana CAA.  The FRA project is one of the five LAB Projects of the African Aviation Industry Group African Aviation Sustainability Laboratory to revamp Air Transport in Africa that was held from 27 June to 1 July 2022 at AFRAA Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.  

The next trials in the first quarter will contribute to making the FRA a reality in 2024.

Source: Timesaerospace

South African Airways Resumes Direct Flights Between Johannesburg and São Paulo

After an almost four-year hiatus, South African Airways (SAA) has reintroduced its flights connecting Johannesburg and São Paulo. The reinstatement of this route signifies a pivotal moment for the airline, reestablishing crucial international connectivity between South Africa and Brazil.

As of Monday 6, the airline resumed operations on the Johannesburg-São Paulo route, utilizing the Airbus A330-300 for its service. SAA’s reservation system reflects the availability of two weekly flights to cater to travelers seeking connectivity between the two vibrant cities.

The flight schedule for this newly revived route is as follows

SA 222: Departure from Johannesburg (JNB) at 11:15, arrival at São Paulo (GRU) at 16:15.

SA 223: Departure from São Paulo (GRU) at 17:45, arrival in Johannesburg (JNB) at 07:45 the following day.

The frequency of flights on this route will be on Mondays and Thursdays, providing a convenient and consistent service for passengers eager to travel between these major destinations.

It’s important to note that this initiative is part of SAA’s efforts to expand its services and reconnect various international routes. In addition to the Johannesburg-São Paulo flights, South African Airways also offers flights to Guarulhos from Cape Town. The airline has adopted a twice-weekly schedule, deploying the same Airbus A330-300 aircraft for these operations.

The resumption of direct flights between Johannesburg and São Paulo is a significant move for South African Airways, marking the airline’s commitment to meeting the travel demands of passengers seeking connectivity and convenience between South Africa and Brazil. This reconnection not only facilitates easy travel for business and leisure but also strengthens the ties between the two vibrant nations. Stay tuned for more updates as South African Airways continues to expand and enhance its global network of flights.

Source: Airspace-Africa

Dubai hotel bookings surge ahead of Cop28 and Dubai Airshow

Dubai hotels are experiencing a “noticeable jump” in occupancy reservations as the emirate gears up to accommodate visitors for global events, according to data by CoStar Group, the parent company of hotel analytics provider STR.

The emirate will host several global events in the coming weeks that are expected to attract an influx of international visitors to the city.

These include the Dubai Airshow on November 13, the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels on November 20 and the Cop28 UN climate summit at the end of the month.

As of October 30, occupancy on the books for the Dubai Airshow (November 13-17) was 58.3 per cent and 59.1 per cent for November 15 and November 16, respectively, according to CoStar.

In comparison, occupancy levels for those dates last year were 54.7 per cent and 53.1 per cent, respectively.

“As one of the most popular and prominent commercial aviation events in the world, the Dubai Airshow has always been a great demand source for Dubai hotels,” said Kostas Nikolaidis, STR’s account executive for Middle East and Africa.

“There is a plethora of top-tier events on the Dubai calendar year after year, and the air show is no exception.”

The UN summit Cop28, which runs from November 30 to December 12, is expected to bring more than 70,000 visitors to the emirate from around the world. Global leaders will meet in Dubai to tackle the escalating climate emergency during the conference.

Dubai showed its highest December occupancy on the books for December 1 (43.7 per cent), and December 2 (44.2 per cent) – the second and third days of Cop28, CoStar data showed.

Comparing with the same period in the previous year, the metrics were lower, standing at 30.8 per cent and 29.4 per cent, respectively.

“Cop28 combined with UAE National Day [December 2] and other events taking place during the busy winter period will ensure the city is buzzing with activity,” Mr. Nikolaidis said.

“Over 40 per cent of all hotel rooms are already booked for the first few days of Cop as well as New Year’s Eve.”

Hoteliers are expecting to see a similar pattern emerge on New Year’s Eve, traditionally a busy night for the industry in Dubai.

Dubai International Airport raised its full-year 2023 passenger forecast in August to 85 million, from an earlier projection of 83.6 million, and is inching towards its pre-coronavirus levels.

Dubai International Airport is connected to 255 destinations in 104 countries and serves 90 international airlines.

The number of international visitors to Dubai exceeded the pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels in the first half of 2023 as the emirate’s hospitality and tourism sector posted a record performance.

International visits to Dubai rose 20 per cent on an annual basis in the January to June period, the Dubai Media Office said in August, citing the latest data from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.

The emirate welcomed 8.55 million international visitors during the period, the best first-half performance yet, exceeding the pre-pandemic figure of 8.36 million tourists in the first half of 2019.

In Dubai, hotels’ revenue per available room (RevPar) growth is forecast at 1.6 per cent year on year for 2023, according to Kelsey Fenerty, analytics manager at STR.

This growth has been largely driven by occupancy, which is expected to return to its long-run average this year even as the full-year average daily rate (ADR) has declined relative to 2022, she said previously.

For 2024, STR projects Dubai hotels’ RevPar growth of 1.9 per cent year over year, with growth more balanced between occupancy and ADR, Ms. Fenerty said.

Source: The National News

CS Murkomen Announces New Tech at JKIA Targeting Passengers Screening

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen on Tuesday unveiled four new measures set to be introduced at JKIA to improve efficiency and promote good passenger experience.

While on a tour of the airport alongside Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) officials, the CS revealed that the government would install modern screen technology at the main gate to enhance security.

Through the use of the new technology, the CS detailed that passengers will no longer have to alight from the vehicles to be screened in a separate room during arrival.

Murkomen also noted that a self-check-in system would be introduced at the airport to promote efficiency. This is aimed at reducing the long queues that have been witnessed at the airport’s checking points.

“Airlines will be required to upgrade their ticket printing to avoid long queues. We shall also deploy technology in the Advance Passenger Information (APS) system to provide prior information on passengers for more efficiency and enhanced security,” Murkomen stated.

Further, KAA was tasked with the construction of canopies which passengers can seek shade under during weather conditions such as rains.

As part of improving the customer experience, the government will improve on constructing comfortable seating areas, providing free Wi-Fi and installing more charging ports at the airport.  Breastfeeding booths will also be revamped.

The improvement of the drainage system was also highlighted as a priority owing to the ongoing heavy rains witnessed in the city and across the country.

Notably, Murkomen’s visit to the airport came after passengers were left stranded due to flooding witnessed in sections of the airport.

“Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen has today announced measures aimed at enhancing service delivery at JKIA. Central to these reforms is a Service Charter that will bring together all govt agencies operating at the airport under a one-stop shop to provide seamless service to passengers,” KAA noted in a statement.

“The airport charter will bring together Immigration, Customs, Kenya Airport Police Unit (KAPU), Port Health, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) & other Govt. Agencies at the airport under the leadership of KAA,”

On the other hand, it was proposed for the airport to have a standalone police force that will be tasked with overseeing general security. Talks will be held with Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki over the matter.


African Destinations enter Growth Phase in Q4 2024

ForwardKeys analysis shows African destinations entering a growth phase in the last quarter of 2023, with Cameroon (+27% international arrivals compared with 2019), Rwanda (+15%), Tanzania (+15%) and Namibia (+10%) leading the way and boasting double-digit growth.

“Most destinations are expected to switch to growth mode during the last quarter of the year, although there is still an uneven recovery amongst countries. Strong demand from the VFR segment is driving the fastest-recovering regions in Central and West Africa. This trend is expected to continue and accelerate as we head towards the Christmas peak season,” says Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights at ForwardKeys.

WTTC President and CEO, Julia Simpson said: “This latest data from ForwardKeys shows an undeniable appetite for travel to destinations across Africa. These search trends reveal potential new source markets for several African destinations and now is the time to seize the opportunities for growth.”

Rwanda is in a good position for Business and Luxury Travel

When discussing business travel to African destinations, it’s important to note that the industry is still in recovery mode. However, there are some destinations that are performing better than others. Senegal is expected to experience a 22% increase in business travel in Q4, Rwanda 21%, and Cameroon 25%.

Rwanda’s recovery of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector is benefiting the country significantly. This is evident as Rwanda was the third fastest-growing business destination in Africa in Q4. The revival of business travel is a positive sign of increased economic activity and investment in Rwanda. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the USA are the most dynamic source markets for business travel to Rwanda, with growth rates of 30%, 13%, and 11% respectively.

ForwardKeys air ticketing data also shows that the recovery of travel to Rwanda is being driven by passengers travelling in premium cabin classes (+37% in Q4 compared with +13% for economy class). This indicates that there is growing interest from high-end premium travellers who are likely to spend more on high-end luxury goods and services during their stay at a destination.

Rwanda serves as an excellent example of how improved connectivity could benefit the destination by enhancing the ease of travel. Currently, 70% of international arrivals involve transfer hubs to arrive in Rwanda, mainly Addis Ababa Bole Airport, Brussels Airport, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Further analysis reveals that there is a great business opportunity to increase the number of direct flights, for example from the United States and Germany, as evidenced by the number of flight searches per source market.

Source: Airspace-Africa

High costs of air travel in Africa stifle tourism

The high cost of air travel in Africa has been described as a barrier to tourism.

Travellers within the continent not only pay higher ticket prices but also more tax to board a commercial aircraft.

This emerged at the just-ended World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) global summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

Speakers at the high-profile event—heads of state, business executives, and travel experts—said intra-Africa air travel remains prohibitive.

“It is often cheaper to fly to another continent than to another African country,” they said as the meeting drew to a close.

They cited an air ticket between Berlin in Germany and Istanbul costing a mere $150 for a direct flight taking less than three hours.

Flying a similar distance between Kinshasa and Lagos in Nigeria would cost between $500 and $850, with the trip taking up to 20 hours.

On the other hand, the cost of a flight from Entebbe in Uganda to the Kenyan port of Mombasa (916km) will cost up to $200.

This is roughly eight times the cost of flying the same distance in Europe.

There are also reports that a flight from Kampala to Arusha costs a staggering $480.

Yet one can fly from Washington to Dallas (both in the vast US) using only $180, with a longer distance compared to Entebbe-Arusha.

“This makes doing business within Africa incredibly difficult and expensive,” said Kamil al Awadhi, the regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East of the International Air Traffic Association (IATA).

An assistant professor of commercial law at the UK’s Durham University, Adefolake Adeyeye, agrees that Africa as a whole is missing out because of its poor air service.

However, according to her, the poor quality of road networks and lack of railways in many African countries often make air transport the practical choice for cargo too.

Although around 18 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, it accounts for less than 2 percent of global air.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the summit host, said the high cost of air travel to Africa and within Africa remains a barrier to the growth of the tourism sector.

He said the situation was due to, among others, the failure to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

SAATM has been approved by the African Union (AU) with a view to opening up Africa’s skies and promoting the value of aviation throughout the continent.

It is also envisaged to boost traffic, drive economies, and create jobs, but it has been signed by only 34 of the 55 AU member states.

But once fully operationalized, SAATM can also open avenues for even better cooperation between different countries where the continent can work out modalities to market Africa as a single tourist destination.

The Rwandan leader made a rallying call on African states to liberalise their airspace “as a way to unlock the potential that the continent possesses in the tourism sector”.

In order for Africa to fully harness emerging sectors like travel and tourism, travel industry experts insist on the need to implement SAATM.

For a continent that is acutely short on other critical infrastructure like roads and maritime transport, air travel is the only option left to ease intra-Africa movement.

However, liberalisation of airspace on the continent has to go along with the removal of the still prevalent visa restrictions in Africa.

The bottom line, nevertheless, remains that many sovereign African countries are hesitant to implement open-sky policies.

Many countries, short of cash to run their respective aviation facilities, heap all sorts of taxes on passengers.

Source: The East African