Coronavirus disruption could cost African airlines $40 million in revenue this year, a global industry body said, a potentially devastating hit to often struggling airlines counting on lucrative Chinese routes to fund expansion.
Airlines around the world suspended or changed flights after the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in mainland China late last year and spread to more than 60 countries around the world.
The global hit to the aviation industry is projected to be $29 billion this year – a 4.7% industry-wide drop in revenue per passenger kilometre, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.
The blow to African airlines could be as much as $40 million, IATA’s special envoy to Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, said at an aviation conference in Addis Ababa.
IATA forecast in December African airlines would make a loss of around $200 million this year, similar to 2019.
Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said the virus slashed passenger demand.
Ethiopian Airlines faced criticism online for not cancelling flights to China like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
“Air travel demand for Ethiopian Airlines declined by 20% due to the virus. It is a big shock,” he told the conference.
On Tuesday, Kenya halted direct flights fromVerona and Milan, which usually head to the Kenyan coast. Northern Italy has seen Europe’s biggest cluster of coronavirus cases.
Last month, Kenya Airways and RwandAir suspended all flights to and from China until further notice.
The World Health Organisation advised countries against banning flights.