AVIATION

Nairobi among Airbus’s unserved routes – report

Africa will need about 1,180 new aircraft by 2043.

In Summary

•Africa will need to introduce 15,000 more pilots, 20, 000 technicians and 24,000 cabin crew to meet the surge in air travel demand. 

•The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects industry revenues to reach a historic high of $996 billion(Sh 127.9 trillion) in 2024.

An A330 Airbus aircraft.
An A330 Airbus aircraft.
Image: HANDOUT

Kenya’s capital Nairobi is among five African cities that remain unserved by Airbus, the global aerospace and aviation giant now says.

This is alongside Lagos (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa), Dakar (Senegal) and Douala (Cameroon), routes in now says could provide greater connectivity for travellers, drive economic growth in local economies and provide a significant boost in revenue for airlines.

A report by Airbus released on Thursday indicates the five cities each have multiple connecting routes that are also unserved.

The uppermost segment of Africa’s presently unserved routes are long-haul intercontinental flights to North America, Europe and the Indian Subcontinent.

The unserved routes were identified by first merging origin and destination traffic data with flight schedule data, and then filtering out city pairs with sufficient origin and destination traffic levels to sustain non-stop flights, but currently lack such non-stop service.

Unserved city pairs within Africa rank lower on the list due to their currently lower traffic numbers.

"Despite significant traffic between certain city-pairs, some identified routes still lack regularly scheduled non-stop flights. Factors such as restrictive bilateral air service agreements, economic variables, and challenges with capacity, frequency and operating cost efficiency contribute to these routes remaining unserved," said Geert Lemaire, Market Intelligence and Consulting Director, Airbus.

He said Airbus remains committed to partnering with airlines across Africa to identify optimised fleet solutions inline with network development requirements, that further stimulates the continent’s air transport industry growth and improve connectivity for travellers. 

West Africa as a sub-region sees the highest number of unserved routes where nine out of the top 15 unserved routes identified in the study start or end in region.

“With the region’s booming population, with its cultural and economic diversity, with the role it plays in international trade and especially when considering the growth forecast for the subregion, the potential to turn the unserved routes into actual ones is substantial,” the report reads in part.

The value of cargo traffic to and from the sub-region is another key factor to consider in understanding the potential.

Out of the 15 identified unserved routes, 11 previously had non-stop flights. Some of the latter were discontinued years ago, whereas four were still in operation back in 2022.

As for many traffic flows to or from Southern Africa, traffic levels took a significant hit during the pandemic and data shows a return to only 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Today, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and the three Middle East Carriers (ME3 carriers) of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, capture the main share of the traffic on the origin and destination via their respective hubs.

The routings constitute a significant detour, ranging from an additional 10 per cent distance for Kenya Airways connecting traffic via Nairobi to approximately 25 per cent for Qatar Airways’ connections through Doha.

Apart from Kenya Airways’ non-stop service from Nairobi to New York, no non-stop flights exists between the entire sub-region of East Africa and North America in the direction to North America.

Ethiopian Airlines flies several routes from Addis Ababa to North America, but each of them include an intermediate stop – be it in Europe or West Africa – on the way to North America.

Airbus also touched on strategic recommendations to capitalise on the opportunities of a more connected continent as well as Airbus’ capabilities to help realise this potential. 

The forecast predicts a 4.1 per cent growth overall in air traffic over the next 20 years, resulting in an anticipated need for 1,180 new aircraft by 2043.

Meanwhile, the continued growth of the aviation sector in Africa is expected to result in 3.3 a real GDP growth on the continent, well above the 2.6 per cent global average.

This growth is ratified by data from Airbus’Global Services Forecast, which estimates that Africa will need to introduce 15,000 more pilots, 20, 000 technicians and 24,000 cabin crew to meet the surge in air travel demand. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects industry revenues to reach a historic high of $996 billion(Sh 127.9 trillion) in 2024.

Passenger revenues are expected to reach $744 billion (Sh 95.6 trillion) in 2024, up 15.2 per cent from $646 billion (Sh83 trillion ) in 2023.

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