Africa air travel on the rise, showing massive 7.4% growth


Cape Town - As the African Union puts a unified content higher up on the agenda with the aim for an African Union passport, the continent's airlines have reported their best performance since 2012, with passenger demand up 7.4%.

This is according to the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) full-year global passenger traffic results for 2016 - which also showed a particularly strong performance was reported for December with an 8.8% rise in demand outstripping 6.6% capacity growth.

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IATA data says growth in the region is underpinned by strong demand on routes to/from the Middle East and Asia - as capacity exactly matched demand across the region, resulting in an average 67.7% load factor percentage of capacity taken up by revenue-generating passengers. 

"Air travel was a good news story in 2016. Connectivity increased with the establishment of more than 700 new routes. And a $44 fall in average return fares helped to make air travel even more accessible. As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination. Demand for air travel is still expanding," says  Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

"The challenge for governments is to work with the industry to meet that demand with infrastructure that can accommodate the growth, regulation that facilitates growth and taxes that don’t choke growth. If we can achieve that, there is plenty of potential for a safe, secure and sustainable aviation industry to create more jobs and increase prosperity."

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Overall 2016 was another strong year for air travel demand, as capacity rose 6.2% compared to 2015, pushing the load factor up 0.1 percentage points to a record full-year average high of 80.5%.  

With an estimated 1.2 billion international tourists, up four percent worldwide in 2016 and some four billion travellers, not just tourists, expected in 2017 De Juniac says, "Our freedom to connect through air travel drives prosperity and enriches societies. That freedom can only be given its fullest expression when governments facilitate the movement of people and goods. Security and competitiveness, of course, must always be top of mind for governments." 

International Passenger Markets 

International passenger traffic rose 6.7% in 2016 compared to 2015, while capacity rose 6.9% and load factor fell 0.2 percentage points to 79.6%. All regions recorded year-over-year increases in demand.  

This despite the fears surrounding terror incidents during the last two years. UN Data shows that in 2015, France ranked number one, followed by the United States and Spain. However, France in particular has been hard hit by extremist attacks, which has impacted tourist arrivals. Paris, for one, has seen a drop in tourists after jihadists sowed terror in the French capital in November 2015, killing 130 people.

Says De Juniac, "Aviation is the business of freedom. And we must defend its social and economic benefits from barriers to travel and protectionist agendas."