The strict measures put in place to fight the pandemic such as border closures, travel bans, quarantines and lockdowns momentarily brought domestic and international travel to a standstill in 2020.
Passenger traffic for air transport dropped at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The International Air Transport Association said traffic in Africa fell by 89 percent. Nevertheless, in spite of this drastic fall, carriers on the continent made tremendous strides to survive, despite the economic pressures felt by African airlines, there was a resolve for survival.
Ethiopian airlines, Africa’s largest commercial airline, quickly diversified to cargo, a smart move to avoid seeking bailouts and laying-off full-time employees. Ethiopian Airlines, managed to close the year with profits of around 2.85 billion euros at the end of June. It’s still a shortfall compared to the forecast of over 3 billion euros. The damage was largely salvaged as the airline transformed part of its passenger fleet into freight to compensate for the sudden drop in passenger traffic, coupled with a drastic cost-cutting policy.
In Northern Africa, Air Maroc offered free insurance packages to lure customers back into flight.
The Moroccan national carrier devised innovative ways to stay afloat as it was also hard hit by the global health crisis. Royal Air Maroc offered its customers free insurance with the purchase of a ticket, assuming the coverage of medical expenses of up to 150,000 euros in the event of coronavirus infections contracted during an international trip between December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
Elsewhere on the continent, Ghana and Burundi announced intentions to create new national carriers. In October 2020, Ghana signed a memorandum of understanding with Egyptair for a future national carrier.No date has been set for an official launch.
Bujumbura is set to re-introduce a state-owned airline in 2021, more than a decade since Air Burundi filed for bankruptcy.
A Johannesburg-based aviation expert said: “The aviation industry in Africa has really seen a turbulent time like any other countries or continents around the world. I think Africa was not spared. But if you look at how we have done things in Africa; in trying to keep our planes in the skies and making sure that we connect Africa which has always been difficult to do, we have managed to do that very well through Ethiopian Airlines that we know very well that they are doing fantastically well”.