African airlines’ performance updates by AFRAA – May 2021


Release Date: 07th June 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic continues its devastating effects on the aviation, travel and tourism industry. The number of Covid-19 infection cases globally continues to increase in absolute terms though the rate of infection is on the decline in all world regions in April compared to prior months. The number of infection cases worldwide exceeded 165m as at 20 May 2021. In Africa, the number of infections stood at 4.7m, representing 2.8% of the global total. The countries with the highest infection in Africa are: South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt. The recovery rate in May is 97.5% and 97.1% for global and Africa respectively.

Traffic recovery for Jan-May was 37% of 2019 level. In May alone, traffic declined by 62.2% compared to same month in 2019. Similarly, capacity declined 53.1% compared to May 2021. Mauritius remains the most impacted hub, with a reduction of 98% of possible connections to/from African airports compared to March 2020. Connectivity at Nairobi JKIA reduced mainly due to schedule adjustments and frequency reduction of national carrier, KQ.

Demand for domestic passenger travel continues to out-perform intra-Africa and intercontinental at 61.5% compared to 23.1% for intra-Africa and 15.1% for intercontinental. In terms of capacity seats offered, domestic, intra-Africa and intercontinental account for 47.7%, 27.2% and 25.1% respectively.

After 3 consecutive months of increase in the number of international routes operated by African airlines (February-April), May saw a dip following border closure announcements by the governments of Algeria and Morocco resulting in airlines in the 2 countries suspending some routes. Ethiopian, RwandAir and SA Airlink however re-opened more routes in May. But the general constrained passenger demand is due to continued increase in Covid-19 cases globally, constantly evolving travel health advisories as well as restrictive access to many tourist sites around the world.

With the low volume of traffic, airlines continue to suffer major losses month after month. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, airlines loss $2.6b and the estimate for Q2 is $2.5b. In 2020, African airlines cumulatively loss $10.21b.

In related Covid-19 developments

  • The government of Tanzania introduced more restrictive Covid-19 travel advisory effective 04 May 2021 to align with similar restrictions in the region.
  • The Nigeria announced it will deny entry to all passengers originating from Brazil, India and Turkey. Airlines that land passengers from any of these countries will be subjected to a fine of not less than $3,500 per passenger.
  • Good news from South Africa is that, the business rescue practitioners filed a notice on 30 April, which ended the rescue and restructuring process of South African Airways, saying the airline was now solvent and liquid.