Picture: Aaron Munetsi,CEO of AASA
The CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has taken a swipe at governments within the region for failing to provide much-needed relief for airlines despite recent global happenings that have negatively impacted their operations.
Addressing delegates of the AASA’s 52nd General Assembly in Kleinmond, Aaron Munetsi submitted that it was regrettable that constant calls on governments to provide relief to airlines have gone unheeded.
“Over the past two years, AASA and its affiliate continental and international airline associations have consistently called on governments to provide financial relief to the air transport and tourism sectors.As an industry, we have not been asking for bail-outs or for governments to take short-term equity holdings in airlines. What we have, and continue to call for, is relief through any of the arrays of instruments and mechanisms that rest in governments’ hands,” he maintained.
He insisted that despite the travel industry braving COVID-19, its lingering effects were casting a blur on airline operations.
Munetsi said: “As I pointed out a few moments ago, the pandemic may be behind us, but we are still suffering with our own long-COVID symptoms. Most airlines and service providers took on additional debt to stay afloat. Most, if not all of them shed jobs temporarily or permanently in order to manage costs. This resulted in institutional knowledge, advanced skills and expertise being lost through retrenchments, retirements, and relocation.
“At the same time, demand for skills development, job creation, transformation and environmental compliance are undiminished. These all require significant investment at a time when rising interest rates are pushing up the cost of borrowing and finance while fuels and other inflationary pressures are tightly squeezing margins.”
The CEO stressed that the travel, aviation and tourism sectors are too important to be left unsupported. According to him, “Given the latest downward revised GDP outlook for the region and the vital and significant role aviation, travel and tourism play in the economic mix, we again call on our governments for effective financial relief for our airlines.
“As we saw throughout the pandemic, governments often make the right noises but fail to follow through with suitable actions or the appropriate support. We need our policymakers to step up and treat travel and tourism with the importance they deserve.”
With the rising cost of air tickets and cost of airline operations, Munesti warned that government’s failure to take necessary measures like, reducing taxes and doing away with some levies, would further exacerbate the cost of travel which could be prohibitive to passengers.
“We know we are not the only ones demanding attention. We are competing for support from shrinking fiscal. Governments have it within their powers to scrap, waive, lower or hold steady all or any of the myriad of statutory taxes, charges and levies applied to air transport and travel. Any increases in these costs will be detrimental as the industry is beyond saturation. It will be unfortunate that industry will have no option but to pass the costs on to our already-burdened customers,” he emphasised.
Story by Samuel Obeng Appah & Jenice Aidoo