AIRLINES servicing routes into Zimbabwe are losing US$6 million in ticket sales revenue every month as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that has forced the halting of flights, Zimbabwe Independent can report.
Major airlines like South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates Airlines last month cancelled flights into Zimbabwe to curb the spread of the virus, a move that has knocked revenues, which has also affected travel agencies. Ethiopian Airlines has since resumed limited flights.
According to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), Africa’s aviation industry will lose US$4 billion in revenue this year as the continent intensifies the fight on Covid-19.
“The average gross monthly sales for airlines active in ticket sales in Zimbabwe is in the region of US$6 million. This is for tickets sold in Zimbabwe only but there is obviously traffic on the routes that have been sold elsewhere,” Board of Airlines Representatives chairperson Winnie Muchanyuka told the Independent this week.
Most regional and international flights are expected to resume on May 31, subject to the lifting of travel bans.
With the tourism sector having ground to a halt, the aviation industry will only recover when countries open their borders. As a result, the resumption of flights largely remains uncertain.
“Resumption of flights is largely dependent on lifting travel bans globally. Most airlines work on a network basis, therefore opening up cities on their network will determine which routes they can operate and which combinations make commercial sense,” Muchanyuka said.
As many countries around the world are on lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, most airlines have sent workers on leave as the aviation industry continues to reel under the devastating effects of Covid-19. However, Muchanyuka said none of the airlines have retrenched workers.
“All airlines in the market have sent staff on leave except Ethiopian Airlines that are operating ad hoc repatriation flights. No airlines have retrenched as yet,” Muchanyuka said.
She said most airlines would seek to service routes that will help them recover and recoup lost revenue as soon as the Covid-19 lockdowns are lifted.
She said airlines would require rescue packages to stay afloat.
“Recovery plans will not be cast in stone but will largely be dictated by which countries will be open for international travel. Airlines will seek to operate routes that will help them recover in the shortest period of time and might not be able to launch their full network operation in the short to medium term,” Muchanyuka added.
Africa is expected to recover slower than Western countries as the virus is still new on the continent where several governments are working on bringing the situation under control.
“Indeed, Africa may have a slower start than Western countries from a perspective that the virus got to us later but we have also had the advantage of learning from these countries and what they have gone through,” Muchanyuka said.
The halting of international flights has had an adverse impact on Zimbabwe’s tourism sector which is expected to lose US$1 billion by the end of the year.
While hotel doors could re-open after the lockdown, business is expected to remain low as tourist traffic will continue to suffer the impact of the pandemic.
Players in the industry say the sector, which relies on foreign tourists, hotel business and air travel, will take long to recover as many people will be hesitant to travel in fear of contracting the disease.
Tourism is one of the worst-affected industries around the world as hotels are on lockdown amid global travel bans. Many countries have closed their borders to prevent the spread of the disease.
Zimbabwe this week entered its second phase of the national lockdown when President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended the stay-home decree by 14 days to curb the spread of the virus and intensify testing.