Covid-19 digital travel pass must be top priority for South African airlines, aviation body says


In South Africa, aviation supported 364,000 jobs and contributed $ 7.6 billion to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to IATA. (iStock)

  • The Southern African Airlines Association held its annual general meeting virtually this week.
  • During the event, the Africa and Middle East Regional Vice President of the global airline body, the International Air Transport Association, outlined three key priorities identified for airlines in South Africa.
  • The three priorities are support for the entire airline industry in the country; adopt an interoperable digital platform for Covid-19 tests and vaccination certificates; and increasing intra-African air connectivity.

Three key priorities have been identified for airlines in South Africa, according to Kamil Al-Awadhi, Africa and Middle East regional vice president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In South Africa, aviation supported 364,000 jobs and contributed $ 7.6 billion to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to IATA. More than 80% of those jobs could be lost if air connectivity is not restored, especially when passenger demand for South Africa is not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2026.

First, Al-Awadhi stressed the importance of controlling taxes and charges.

“Now is not the right time to burden the industry with additional burdens. We must work together as an industry to ensure a sustainable recovery. Financial support and relief must be provided to the entire airline industry if it is to fulfill its role as an economic engine. facilitator and creator of jobs, ”he said at the Southern African Airlines Association (AASA) annual general meeting held virtually on Thursday.

“The government has several levers to help all carriers and service providers, both public and private. In addition to cash or financial guarantees, they include reductions, exemptions and rebates on user charges and air and air transport taxes and wage subsidies. . “

A second key priority would be that an ‘interoperable’ digital platform for Covid-19 testing and vaccination certificates should be adopted.

“As the number of passengers increases in the recovery, digital management of traveler health credentials will be essential to avoid queues and overcrowding at airports, with wait times already doubling and ahead. further increase if the processes are not digitized and made more efficient, ”Al-Awadhi said.

In his view, the IATA Travel Pass and the African Union Trusted Travel Pass are both tools that can help governments effectively and easily verify traveler’s health information. Private airline SA Airlink announced on Thursday that it was part of a trial using the IATA Travel Pass.

The third key priority identified by IATA is the importance of increasing intra-African air connectivity.

The African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) aims to unlock travel and economic benefits on the continent. An econometric study commissioned by IATA found that full implementation of SAATM across the continent would create 14,500 new jobs for South Africa and add $ 283.9 million to the country’s GDP.

IATA is working on an effective SAATM implementation plan, working with AASA and other industry bodies on the continent. The current constraints are protectionism and the negotiation of bilateral agreements that have failed.

In addition, IATA recently urged the South African government to ensure the effective functioning of the South African International and National Air Service Licensing Board to enable the licensing of operations for new routes and frequencies. increased on existing routes to South African carriers.

“Aviation remains essential to support economies and is a catalyst for growth. Governments must prioritize aviation as part of their national strategies and stimulus plans, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government of South Africa and providing whatever support is needed for the safe recovery. and sustainable aviation, ”Al-Awadhi concluded.

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