Cape Town Air Access has described stiff competition for international airline services but “remains committed” to establishing direct air links with “unserved” destinations, specifically Australia, Brazil and Nigeria.
Cape Town Air Access, a division of Wesgro, took stock of the recovery of seats at its Annual Review Showcase this week. The event was attended by government and business stakeholders as well as airline professionals.
According to Wesgro’s air-route development project, most of the province’s pre-pandemic services have recovered, with flights to Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) re-launched from 23 international destinations, served by 18 international airlines during 2021.
Domestically, connections to all 13 pre-pandemic destinations have been re-established for CTIA, served by seven local airlines. Four airlines are also operating out of George Airport to three domestic destinations.
Other highlights from the year in review include:
- Flights to 11 out of 13 pre-pandemic African destinations have been re-established for CTIA;
- The AviaDev Africa route development conference 2022 will return to Cape Town for the third time from June 29-July 1; and
- Intercontinental flights to Cape Town are leading the way for sustainability, with almost 75% of carriers choosing to operate new-generation aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner into the destination.
A summary by Air Access Project Manager, Paul van den Brink, showed that Africa’s capacity recovery has been above the global average since February 2022. By May 2, 2022, the organisation calculated a 90.4% recovery with 3.8m seats (compared with 4.2m in 2019), while passenger traffic has increased to around 63% this year, up from around 42% in 2021.
Air Access spokesperson, Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, said the progress “signifies our position as a competitive and attractive destination”.
Wesgro’s route wish-list
“Based on our historical passenger data, our top-three unserved markets that we are targeting for direct routes are São Paulo, Brazil; Lagos, Nigeria; and Sydney, Australia,” Stander revealed.
Looking back, she said airlines had elected to operate to destinations that were open and had fewer travel restrictions when lockdown restrictions eased and borders first reopened. But capacity constraints had become an issue.
“The situation was very fluid, with airlines making decisions and starting routes in much shorter time frames,” said Stander. “As more and more destinations are opening up again, airlines are facing capacity shortages of aircraft and staff, making it more difficult to operate routes at will, and therefore more planning and effort are going into launching new routes once again.”
While the Air Access team is currently awaiting a decision by the US Department of Transport about the allocation of frequencies on new direct routes (Stander confirmed applications for both Washington-Cape Town by United Airlines and a direct Atlanta-Cape Town service by Delta) Stander said talks with LATAM could now resume.
She said: “São Paulo in Brazil is our largest unserved destination and a direct flight to Cape Town has been on our radar for a very long time. A suitable airline is required that can operate the route. We were in discussions with LATAM pre-COVID and will resume talks with them.”
Based on Wesgro’s calculations, every 100 international passengers travelling by air to Cape Town and the Western Cape means six business-class ticket sales, support for one local job, almost R1.38mn (US$84 770) in tourism spend, and around R785 000 (US$48 290) in transported cargo value.