Intra-African air tickets are 45% more expensive than tickets in other continents, stifling Africa’s demand for air travel.
During the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit, speakers described the high cost of air travel in Africa as a barrier to intra-African travel potential, as travellers pay higher ticket prices and more tax to board a commercial aircraft.
The African Airlines Association 2021 report found that passengers in Africa pay about US$50 (R926) in taxes compared with US$30,25 (R560) in Europe and US$29,65 (R549) in the Middle East for the same length of journey.
“It is often cheaper to fly to another continent than to another African country,” officials agreed.
Speakers at the high-profile event – including heads of state, business executives, and travel experts – said a lack of infrastructure, stringent limitations on airspace and a lack of collaboration hindered intra-Africa air travel.
Massive cost discrepancies
To illustrate their point, they analysed the difference of the cost of an air ticket from Berlin to Istanbul and Kinshasa to Lagos. Despite the flights being of similar distance, Berlin-Istanbul’s direct three-hour flight comes in at a mere US$150 (R2 780) compared with Kinshasa-Lagos, which would cost between US$500 (R9 265) and US$850 (R15 745), and take up to 20 hours.
Additionally, a flight from Entebbe to Mombasa (916km) will cost up to $200 (R3 705), almost eight times the cost of flying the same distance in Europe.
“This makes doing business within Africa incredibly difficult and expensive,” said Kamil al Awadhi, Iata’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.
While Africa makes up 18% of the world’s population, it accounts for less than 2% of global air travel.
According to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the inflated cost of air travel within and to Africa will act as an inhibitor to the growth of its tourism sector.
Among other reasons, Kagame believes the failure to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), an African Union-approved call to unite the continent’s skies and promote values of collaborative aviation, has contributed to this.
SAATM expected to improve air traffic
SAATM is expected to improve air traffic and contribute to the growth of African economies, however only 34 of 55 AU member states have signed it. Upon consensus, SAATM will open avenues for better communication and co-operation between countries so that they can find a way to market the continent as a single tourist destination.
Kagame called on African states to liberalise their airspace as a way to unlock the potential that the continent possessed in the travel and tourism sector. Along with the liberalisation of airspace, countries will still need to abolish prevalent visa restrictions to ease the movement of people. Kagame said many countries were reluctant to implement open-skies policies as they needed more capital to run their aviation facilities and use passenger charges and taxes to make up for it.
Taxes on airline operations range from common-use terminal and jetway charges to noise, landing, parking, passenger bus, firefighting, and lighting, which are a huge financial burden.