Sky Without Borders: How Africa’s Single Air Market Could Revolutionize Continental Travel

Explore how the SAATM initiative is breaking barriers in African aviation, fostering economic growth, and reshaping the continent’s air travel landscape.

Imagine boarding a flight in Lagos, making a brief stop in Nairobi to pick up more passengers, and then heading straight to Cairo – all on a single ticket. This vision, once a distant dream, is inching closer to reality with the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative.

Spearheaded by aviation authorities across the continent, including insights from Mr Ronnie Balongo of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), the SAATM is set to redefine what interconnectivity means for African nations.

Breaking the Chains of Point-to-Point Travel

For decades, air travel within Africa has been constrained by a rigid point-to-point model. Direct flights between African countries are few and often expensive, deterring both business and leisure travel.

The SAATM seeks to dismantle these barriers by allowing airlines the fifth freedom of traffic rights. This essentially permits them to operate flights that pick up and drop off passengers in third-party countries not their own. It’s a game-changer that promises to transform the continent’s aviation landscape radically.

Fostering Greater Connectivity and Economic Growth

The benefits of the SAATM extend beyond mere convenience for travelers. By enhancing interconnectivity, the initiative is poised to stimulate economic growth, foster business expansion, and promote tourism across the continent.

Airlines will have the opportunity to explore new routes, thereby increasing their operational scope and potentially reducing costs for passengers. It’s a win-win situation that could see Africa’s aviation industry soar to new heights, making air travel more accessible and affordable for millions of people.

Challenges and Potential Setbacks

Despite the optimistic outlook, the journey towards a fully integrated African airspace is not without its hurdles. Regulatory challenges, infrastructure limitations, and concerns over market competition and security are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed.

Moreover, the success of the SAATM hinges on the willingness of individual countries to open their skies, a move that requires both trust and cooperation among nations with diverse interests and capabilities.

As the SAATM initiative moves forward, its implementation will undoubtedly be closely watched by industry stakeholders and travelers alike. The dream of a ‘sky without borders’ within Africa is on the horizon, promising to usher in a new era of air travel that could reshape the continent’s economic and social landscape.

Source:  BNN

Close Call in the Skies: Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines Flight’s Near-Miss Over East Africa

In a heart-stopping moment that could have altered countless lives, two major airliners, Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, found themselves on a collision course in the skies over East Africa. This incident, involving Qatar Airways Flight 6U and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 602, has cast a spotlight on the critical importance of air traffic control and the ever-present risks that loom in the complex airspace above our heads. With both aircraft cruising at high altitudes, a simple miscommunication nearly led to what could have been one of the most devastating aviation disasters in recent history.

Breaking Down the Near-Miss

The incident unfolded as the Qatar Airways flight, cruising serenely at 38,000 feet, received a directive from air traffic controllers based in Mogadishu. This instruction, fraught with grave error, commanded the flight to ascend to 40,000 feet. Unbeknownst to them, this maneuver steered them dangerously close to Ethiopian Airlines Flight 602, which was flying at 39,000 feet along the same route. The skies, vast as they may seem, became perilously small at that moment. The reported near-miss, detailed by the Somaliland Civil Aviation and Airports Authority, underscores a chilling reminder of the fragility of air travel, reliant on the precision of air traffic control and the swift compliance of pilots.

Underlying Issues at Play

The incident has shone a light on broader issues within the region’s airspace management. The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation of the Federal Government of Somalia has previously expressed concerns regarding the disruption of established flight paths in the northern regions of Somaliland. These disruptions are not only a navigational headache for pilots but also pose significant risks to air traffic, highlighting the potential dangers and lack of coordination that plague the region. The accusation from the Civil Aviation Authority against Somaliland for exacerbating these risks by misdirecting aircraft underscores the pressing need for improved communication and protocols within air traffic control systems.

Looking Forward: A Call for Action

The near-miss between Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines serves as a stark wake-up call to the aviation industry and regulatory bodies worldwide. It highlights the pressing necessity for stringent air traffic control measures, enhanced communication protocols, and the adoption of more sophisticated technology to prevent such incidents. While the aviation industry remains one of the safest modes of transportation, this incident is a potent reminder that there is no room for complacency. Strengthening the safeguards that protect the millions of passengers who take to the skies each day is not just a matter of regulatory duty but a moral imperative.

The skies are a shared space, a global commons that requires the utmost care, precision, and cooperation to navigate safely. As we move forward, let this incident be a reminder of the responsibilities that all parties involved in air travel carry – from air traffic controllers to pilots, from airlines to regulatory bodies. The margin for error is infinitesimally small, yet the stakes are unimaginably high. It is through acknowledging these challenges, and working tirelessly to address them, that we can continue to ensure the safety of air travel for all.

Source: Travel Trade Today

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Russia and Tanzania to Open Direct Flights

Tanzania and Russia are planning to open direct flights, and an agreement to this effect is planned to be signed in the near future, Tanzania’s Ambassador to Russia Fredrick Ibrahim Kibuta told the media, Sputnik reports.

“We are in the final stages of signing an agreement of mutual understanding and cooperation between our airlines in order to organize direct flights from Russia to Tanzania, even from St. Petersburg there will be direct flights,” he said.

The ambassador also expressed hope that this will boost the flow of Russian tourists to the African country, as until recently Russians were actively traveling to Tanzania.

Kibuta further noted the existing need for direct flights between the countries.

“In fact, there is a need for direct flights, and we have requests from very different directions about organizing such flights,” the diplomat said.

Source: VMT News  

KQ Eyes Eldoret, Maputo In Expansion Plans.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Kenya Airways (KQ) has announced that it will add flights to Eldoret and Maputo, Mozambique, amid growing demand for air travel.

The airline will be flying to Eldoret five times a week as well as three times per week to Maputo.

It will also increase frequencies to five destinations, including two extra flights to New York in the United States of America.

This is in addition to another two weekly flights to Paris, France, ahead of the Olympics later this year.

Furthermore, KQ says that it will deploy B787-8 aircraft to drive up capacity to Accra and Freetown, providing passengers with more comfort and convenience.

The airline will also add three additional flights to Lagos, Nigeria.

All these new destinations and increased frequencies are now available for booking on Global Distribution Systems (GDS).

In a statement on Thursday, the national carrier said that the expansion is aimed at meeting growing demand while ensuring the airline’s bottom line revenue growth.

“The network expansion is reflective of our mission of propelling Africa’s growth by connecting its people, cultures and markets,” its Chief Commercial and Customer Officer Julius Thairu said.

Source: Capital Fm  

5 key trends for air travel in 2024

A record-breaking 2023 for international passenger traffic at Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) heralded a very positive start to 2024 and all expectations are that growth will continue throughout the year. As we look to build on this impressive achievement, it is vital to take note of the key trends that are expected to shape the aviation industry in 2024.

The race to meet demand

Globally, the air travel industry has made impressive headway in 2023 with many airlines and airports showing robust growth, driven by strong passenger demand, and supported by extensive destination marketing initiatives.

In turn, capacity has struggled to keep up. The shortage of new aircraft has been exacerbated by manufacturers delaying delivery of newer models due to supply chain issues, forcing the industry to turn to leasing companies to fill gaps in the interim.

In addition, the conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have created global uncertainty with a knock-on effect of increased aviation fuel prices. This has led to carriers becoming more selective when choosing destinations, with a preference for routes with high returning yields. Staff acquisition will remain a challenge in 2024 with higher labour costs and training backlogs putting pressure on airlines and airports alike.

The local air travel industry is not immune to these challenges. For CTIA, the addition of new international and African carriers and routes as well as the returning peak season capacity saw the international terminal achieve record passenger numbers for 2023. Year-on-year growth equalled 48%, with 2.8 million two-way passengers processed, eclipsing the previous benchmark of 2.6 million recorded in 2019.

On the domestic front, year-on-year passenger growth for 2023 stood at 16% and it is expected that incremental capacity additions by the domestic carriers will stimulate growth, despite the expectation that passenger numbers will remain below 2019 levels this year.

Due to the exceptional international terminal growth, we hope to see much-needed infrastructure expansion at CTIA, with an announcement on plans expected soon. Another interesting development in the local aviation space is the recently announced development plans for a privately owned Cape Winelands Airport.

Finally, to make South Africa’s tourism target of 21 million visitors by 2030 a reality, growth and accessibility should be supported by the pending release of the National Aviation Policy by the Department of Transport (DoT).

The hope is therefore that a less restrictive stance on especially international Air Service Agreements will be adopted. These treaty-level agreements outline, for instance, the number of flights that can be operated between countries. Should these agreements remain restricted or outdated, it may lead to stagnation of passenger and cargo flows as well as missed economic growth opportunities for the country.

Promoting the African agenda

The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a key project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which aims to liberalise and unify African skies by promoting increased air travel and economic integration. Notable initiatives rallying behind the project include the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Focus Africa initiative and the SAATM Pilot Implementation Project (PIP). The success of SAATM will also be heavily influenced by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The Focus Africa initiative aims to promote collaboration, streamline operations, and enhance aviation infrastructure across Africa. Similarly, the PIP allows participating countries to identify challenges, assess feasibility, and fine-tune their regulatory environment. Even with these supporting initiatives, the African aviation sector has struggled to operationalise SAATM, and the African aviation sector has therefore not grown as fast as it could have.

By the end of 2023, 38 out of 54 African countries pledged participation in SAATM, representing more than 80% of Africa’s population. However, more still needs to be done as many issues remain like the absence of Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights between African countries or unnecessary costs and delays in issuing Foreign Operator Permits (FOPs).

However, with the implementation of AfCFTA, the United Nations expects that use of air freight across the continent will nearly double from 2.3 to 4.5 million tonnes per year. The increased use of air freight for intra-African trade across the continent will surely drive the need for a successful SAATM initiative.

As the continent strives for greater air travel integration, addressing accessibility challenges and fostering a spirit of collaboration will be crucial in ensuring the sustained growth and success of SAATM.

Air cargo’s stabilising trajectory

The global air cargo market has experienced a strenuous 2023 as demand flattened while rates and revenues declined throughout most of the year. Adding to the pressure is the continued imbalance in supply and demand with air cargo capacity outstripping volumes, the exact opposite of the passenger market.

According to Accenture, air cargo capacity increased by 7% year-on-year in 2023 whilst volumes stood at negative 10% between January and October 2023. The increase in supply was mainly driven by the return of belly-freight capacity in widebody passenger aircraft, which is set to continue this year.

On the demand side, almost all air trade industries recorded steep volume declines for the first 10 months of 2023 with the only growth experienced in temperature-controlled goods, especially seafood and fruit.

However, towards the end of 2023, both yields and demand saw significant increases in the global air cargo market. According to DHL, the surge can be attributed, in part, to a booming e-commerce sector in Asia and the increased use of air cargo by retailers. This is echoed by Accenture which estimates that global cross-border e-commerce growth reached 40% in 2023 vs 2022, making up 9% of international air trade (up from 6% in 2022). In addition, IATA predicts that air cargo volumes will rise by 4.5% in 2024.

It is expected that the air cargo market will stabilise along with an equilibrium of supply and demand in 2024, However, external factors including global conflict could negatively influence or hamper the growth of the industry. Despite this, the recent diversion of container vessels around Africa could present an opportunity for increased air cargo volumes, in the short term, if businesses choose to avoid long shipping delays.

Closer to home, the congestion experienced at the Port of Cape Town has caused air cargo volumes to increase at CTIA, with many airlines reporting positive increases in air cargo volumes over December and January. Exporters and shippers of high-value fruit and perishables will continue to look for alternatives in 2024 of which air cargo, although more expensive, is a viable option.

Growth is on the horizon for the market however the question remains; is the air cargo supply chain – and the current infrastructure in South Africa – mature enough to absorb and adapt to the budding growth? If not, one might expect some teething issues and steep learning curves which could result in lost opportunities. However, for companies ahead of the curve great growth prospects are available this year.

A shift towards tangible sustainability

Although sustainability has been a hot topic for the better part of three decades, the aviation industry – as a 2% contributor to global carbon emissions – is finding itself under exponential pressure and scrutiny to reduce emissions as we draw nearer to the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 goal.

The biggest intervention to emerge is the introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), as a replacement for fossil fuels, and airlines are likely to increase their investment in production and usage. Simultaneously, airports are expected to collaborate with energy providers and invest in the necessary facilities for the production, storage, and distribution of SAF.

Establishing a robust SAF infrastructure is crucial for ensuring a steady and scalable supply of eco-friendly fuels. South Africa is well poised to be a potential market leader in this field if enough government and industry support can be garnered.

Sustainable practices in aircraft design and manufacturing are expected to be prioritised. Lightweight materials, advanced aerodynamics, and innovative manufacturing processes will be leveraged to create more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft.

Moreover, carriers are examining airport sustainability when planning their network operations. Airlines are likely to prioritise partnerships with airports that demonstrate a commitment to environmentally responsible practices. One key trend shaping the sector in this regard is the accelerated adoption of electric ground-handling vehicles to reduce emissions and noise pollution on airport premises.

Sustainability trends in aviation are grounding the “head in the clouds” perspective, with a greater propensity towards more tangible and cross-cutting solutions. The industry’s commitment to these initiatives reflects a collective effort to address environmental challenges and pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future in aviation.

The transformative effects of innovation

The global aviation sector is undergoing transformational developments, focusing on efficiency, sustainability, and passenger experience. In Africa, innovation is largely driven by critical infrastructure development and increased air connectivity. The integration of airports into urban planning to create more interconnected cities is also taking centre stage.

Digital technologies are increasingly being used in the industry to streamline operations, enhance passenger experiences, and boost efficiency. This includes the use of artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The aviation sector is also advancing with the development of electric aircraft and autonomous flight technology.

African aviation is also embracing digitalisation and e-commerce solutions with airports like Addis Ababa Bole International Airport currently developing the largest e-commerce facility on the continent. It is immensely important for airports and destinations alike to future-proof themselves by adopting international best practices.

The importance of integrated planning when developing existing or new airport infrastructure within city boundaries is of utmost importance to create a sought-after and sustainable destination.

For instance, the “20-minute city” concept aims to create urban centres with all essential services within a 20-minute commute, promoting economic growth and shortening travel times. Major cities are investing in technology and infrastructure to achieve this. The air travel landscape is also reshaping itself by incorporating multimodal transport options, like airports incorporating high-capacity, land-based, public transport options for efficient connectivity within and between cities.

These actions underscore a commitment to creating more connected, sustainable, and economically vibrant aviation and destination ecosystems that benefit both passengers and the communities they serve by implementing the latest innovative technologies.

The global aviation industry in 2024 will be characterised by robust growth and a focus on innovation and sustainability, despite some persistent challenges. Ongoing issues such as infrastructure constraints and supply chain disruptions will become more prominent as efforts to expand capacity and streamline operations remain a key focus. Initiatives like SAATM aim to promote integration and open skies across the African continent while the sustainability agenda drives investments in eco-friendly fuels, aircraft design, and airport infrastructure.

Innovation, a buzzword in every sector, is set to reshape the aviation landscape, promising more efficient and connected travel experiences. If the aviation sector can remain poised in the balancing act of addressing challenges through innovation, then we expect that record-breaking numbers will only continue to climb in the years ahead.

Source: Biz Community

Kenya Airways resumes nonstop flights to Mogadishu, fostering regional connectivity.

Nairobi, 15th February 2024 – Kenya Airways has reintroduced nonstop flights to Mogadishu, Somalia, signaling a landmark achievement in regional connectivity and development. The thrice-weekly flights will bring about greater convenience of nonstop travel, focusing on reduced travel time and enhanced accessibility between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

The Somalia flight will operate from Terminal 2 at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Kenya Airways had initially launched flights to Mogadishu in December 2018 but had to suspend the route due to the pandemic. In August 2023, bilateral air services agreement between Kenya and Somalia were signed paving the way for direct flights.

Highlighting the significance of this development, Kenya Airway’s Group Managing Director and CEO, Allan Kilavuka said the resumption of flights to Mogadishu aligns with the airline’s strategic commitment to expanding its network across the African continent and contributing to its long-term economic progress.

“The introduction of 3X-weekly flights will undoubtedly enhance trade and economic opportunities between our connected regions, stimulate tourism, and strengthen cultural and social ties. Apart from passenger services, our recently acquired B737-800 Freighter has started ferrying cargo directly between Sharjah and Mogadishu with a weekly flight and plans to increase this to twice weekly by April 2024.”said Mr. Kilavuka.   

The flights are expected to improve connectivity for business travelers, the Somali diaspora, NGOs among others. In recent years, Somalia has witnessed significant positive change as peace efforts bear fruit. In December 2023, Somalia’s was formally admitted to the East African Community (EAC), making it the eighth member of the regional block.

In January 2023, the Somali airspace regained its Class A classification after more than 30 years, a move recognized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for its potential to enhance safety and efficiency in the region.

Kenya Airways, with its expanded global network, now connects passengers to 43 global destinations, providing more convenient travel options.

Source: Corporate Kenya Airways.  

Proflight Zambia and Air Tanzania Forge Seamless Travel Experience with Interline Agreement

Proflight Zambia, Zambia’s leading commercial airline, has unveiled an exciting development in its quest to enhance passenger connectivity and travel options. The airline has officially entered an interline ticketing agreement with Air Tanzania, a strategic move aimed at providing passengers with access to new destinations and a seamlessly integrated travel experience within the region.

This innovative partnership facilitates a streamlined ticketing process, enabling travelers to effortlessly book itineraries that span both Proflight Zambia and Air Tanzania, all within a single ticketed journey.

Captain Josias Walubita, Director of Flight Operations at Proflight Zambia, expressed enthusiasm about the agreement, emphasizing its goal to deliver cost-effective and flexible travel options for passengers utilizing the services of both airlines. He stated, “We look forward to enhancing passenger experiences across both airlines’ routes.”

Eng. Ladislaus Matindi, Managing Director of Air Tanzania, highlighted the benefits of choosing their airline. He pointed out that passengers opting for Air Tanzania would become part of the largest network family, gaining access to improved connections and convenient travel options within Zambia’s domestic routes and four major cities: Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town.

As the interline agreement takes effect, passengers can seamlessly book journeys that involve both Proflight Zambia and Air Tanzania flights.

Looking ahead into 2024, Proflight Zambia plans to introduce discounted fares for itineraries combining the two airlines. Examples include routes like Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg via Lusaka. These fares will be accessible through Proflight Zambia’s official website and Global Distribution System (GDS).

 Source: Airspace Africa.  

Kenya Airways Expands Flights to Nigeria: A Leap Towards Pan-African Unity and Tourism.

Kenya Airways amplifies its flights to Nigeria, offering daily services and strengthening Pan-African unity. The airline introduces an online e-visa application process and signs a codeshare agreement with Air Europa, expanding access to European and American destinations. Despite challenges, Kenya Airways remains committed to forging alliances and growing tourism.

On the cusp of a new era in African connectivity, Kenya Airways has announced its intention to increase flights to Nigeria, offering daily services to the nation. This strategic move, unveiled by the acting Kenyan High Commissioner to Nigeria, Samuel Mogere, during the Magical Kenya roadshow in Abuja, is set to fortify tourism between the two countries.

Currently, the airline operates four weekly flights between Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. With the proposed expansion, Kenya Airways aims to strengthen its commitment to Pan-African unity and support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, a vital initiative designed to stimulate long-term growth across the continent.

A Symphony of Progress: Kenya’s Expanding Horizons.

In addition to the heightened flight frequency, Kenya has introduced an online e-visa application process, streamlining travel for individuals wishing to visit the nation. This digital transformation signifies a pivotal step in Kenya’s ongoing efforts to boost tourism and facilitate seamless travel experiences for its visitors.

As the second-largest airline in East Africa, Kenya Airways serves 41 international destinations in 35 countries. The airline holds the distinction of being the first African national carrier to successfully privatize in 1996, a testament to its enduring legacy and relentless pursuit of progress.

Forging Alliances: A Network of Opportunities.

In a bid to enhance access to European and American destinations for passengers traveling to and from East Africa, Kenya Airways recently inked a codeshare agreement with Spain’s Air Europa. This partnership is poised to open up a world of possibilities for travelers, fostering increased connectivity and collaboration between nations.

However, the road to progress is seldom without its challenges. In a recent episode, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority banned Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, in retaliation for Kenya’s refusal to permit cargo flights from Air Tanzania to land in Nairobi. Nevertheless, Kenya Airways remains undeterred in its mission to forge ahead and build a robust network of alliances.

The Journey Ahead: A Vision for Unity and Growth

As Kenya Airways sets its sights on raising tourist arrivals from West Africa, it is gearing up for roadshows in Nigerian and Ghanaian cities, including Accra, Abuja, and Lagos. The airline currently operates regular direct flights into these three cities, with other airlines also connecting Kenya to these bustling hubs.

The partnerships between the Kenya Tourism Board and the private sector are crucial in realizing its goals of improving tourism arrivals into Kenya. The upcoming roadshows, scheduled for February 5 through 9, 2024, will bring together over 400 travel trade companies and present an invaluable opportunity for the Kenyan trade to engage with West African travel agents and tour operators. By showcasing its diverse range of products and services, Kenya hopes to forge new partnerships that will drive growth and solidify its standing as a premier tourist destination.

In the grand tapestry of African unity and progress, Kenya Airways stands as a beacon of hope and determination. As it continues to expand its wings and reach for the skies, the airline remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering unity, boosting tourism, and creating opportunities for growth and collaboration across the continent.

Source: BNN

Kenya Airways and Air Europa sign code-share agreement.

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has signed a code-sharing agreement with Spain’s third-largest airline, Air Europa amid a resurgence in demand for air travel.

KQ said the deal would enable it to extend its reach in Europe and the US. The agreement will allow Air Europa passengers to fly to Nairobi from Amsterdam while those on KQ flights would get connections to Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, New York, and Miami.

“We are excited about this partnership as it will provide our guests with more convenient travel options to Europe and the United States. Air Europa has been our partner under the SkyTeam Alliance, and this agreement allows us to collaborate more for the mutual benefit of our guests giving them more access and connectivity,” Martin Gitonga, KQ’s head of network planning and alliances, said.

Code-sharing is an agreement between two or more airlines to sell seats for the same flight which means that passengers enjoy benefits such as the purchase of a single ticket, a single check-in, and seamless connections at transit points.

As part of the deal, KQ will deploy its codes on four Air Europa routes, specifically from Amsterdam to Madrid, Madrid to Palma de Mallorca, Madrid to New York, and Miami while Air Europa will place their code on the Kenya Airways Amsterdam to Nairobi flight.

The code-sharing agreement with Air Europa joins a growing list of similar pacts signed between KQ and international airlines.

Source: Business Daily.