space traveling warriors tier list : Cape Town shines as the center of Africa’s aviation recovery

If you had to choose a region that truly represents the notion of aviation’s potential, it would be Africa. The continent accounts for around 12% of the world’s population, but only 2.5% of passenger traffic. The impact of COVID and, more recently, the protracted conflict in Ukraine and its effect on fuel prices, have only put more obstacles in the way of this region poised to flourish.

IATA’s recent industry update highlighted the problems for the region’s recovery. The lower vaccination rate on the continent has dampened the trajectory of the aviation resurgence so far, although it also notes that some ‘recovery’ is likely this year. Currently, IATA expects demand to reach nearly 80% of pre-crisis levels by the end of 2022, while capacity is expected to increase by approximately the same.

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But not all of Africa is the same. Having landed in Cape Town yesterday for the start of AviaDev Africa, Simple Flying can confirm that the CPT is busy, access is easy and the mask and vaccination requirements in South Africa are in line with what we are experiencing in South African markets. Western Europe.

With travel restrictions removed, accessing Cape Town is easier than ever. Photo: Cape Town International Airport

In fact, data published by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) shows a 48% recovery in annual passenger traffic through March 2022. Indeed, in May 2022, ACSA signaled that CPT had processed over 624,000 passengers, a drop of only 19% compared to the previous period. COVID Statistics.

As the excitement of AviaDev Africa 2022 gears up for takeoff, Simple Flying caught up with Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro, to find out the role Cape Town is playing in the renaissance of Africa’s aviation landscape.


The domestic prevails, but the international is also recovering

Wrenelle was appointed CEO of Wesgro – the Official Agency for Tourism, Trade, Investment and Film Promotion for Cape Town and the Western Cape – in September last year. She is former CEO of Comair, managing director of the Air Traffic Navigation Service of South Africa (ATNS) and most recently CEO of the Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA). With over 28 years of work experience in Aviation and Energy, she is a top nominee and has already embraced what is making Cape Town an outstanding example of the African aviation renaissance.

Wrenelle is the newly appointed CEO of Wesgro. Photo: Wesgro

She notes that, very early on, the African passenger market for Cape Town, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, had a more robust and faster recovery than most traditional food markets, especially Europe. This was mainly linked to better connectivity and fewer travel restrictions in the African regional market. But she also notes that international is starting to show strong signs of recovery too,

“With the reopening of travel, the European and especially the North American market has recovered very quickly and is now leading the recovery of passengers to Cape Town. Total international passenger recovery in the first five months of 2022 is just below 60% compared to 2019 levels at Cape Town International Airport.

“International air cargo volumes also showed a good recovery, and we saw an 85% recovery from 2019 in the first quarter of 2022. This is still very much tied to our traditional commercial markets in Europe, Asia and North America more than African region”.

Cape Town has reconnected to all of its pre-pandemic African markets, and only one or two European destinations are missing from the route map. His focus now is on increasing capacity and frequency on all these available routes.

International carriers are returning to Cape Town. Photo: Cape Town International Airport

Attracting new operators and routes

Key to Cape Town’s renaissance will be the stimulation of new and existing air activities at the airport. Cape Town Air Access, an award-winning air route development project based at Wesgro, is approaching this with a three-pronged strategy – maintaining existing routes, expanding existing routes through more frequency or capacity, and developing new routes. Wrenelle explained,

“We have developed a very innovative way to help our current and new airlines by bringing together a full range of destination financial and non-financial resources based on a collaborative effort between all Cape Town Air Access partners. This includes both public and private sector partners and therefore we can provide a holistic destination offering to help airlines flying to Cape Town.”

The airport is investing to make itself attractive to airlines. Photo: Cape Town International Airport

She also noted the importance of establishing the business case for a new route, ensuring it is sustainable and profitable for the operator. Once that part is proven, Cape Town works to build the trust needed on both sides to develop the relationship to the point where it makes sense to launch a new route.

The challenges still facing Cape Town

COVID has left its mark on South Africa and, until very recently, inconsistent travel restrictions were probably the biggest challenge to overcome. No one can forget the unilateral and somewhat unfair measures imposed on South African aviation amid the emergence of the Omicron variant last December. But with that in the past, Cape Town has noticed a renewed willingness to travel to the region, with international passenger traffic up 75% in April and May this year.


But that’s not all Wrenelle has to contend with if Cape Town truly fulfills its potential. Staff shortages are affecting South Africa as much as anywhere else, and airport congestion remains a troubling symptom of the much-welcomed recovery. Stander noted,

“We are focusing on being ready for the next high season at the end of the year. Our capacity forecast based on airline returns for the IATA 22/23 winter season shows that we will match 2019 seating capacity during peak season.”

The airport still has many challenges to overcome. Photo: Cape Town International Airport

She also noted that sustainability remains a major hurdle for air carriers, with airlines now being encouraged by industry bodies such as IATA to allow passengers to offset their carbon emissions when booking tickets. This will inevitably affect airfares in the short term, but in the long term it will create a more sustainable and resilient industry.

But the long term also brings a greater challenge, as Wrenelle explained,

“The most significant long-term challenge is the issue of Bilateral Agreements. Germany and the US are the top 3 destinations for incoming traffic to South Africa and CPT; however, their respective operators can only operate 21 frequencies per week in SA. Carriers in these countries want to expand the number of flights to SA due to growing demand, but are unable to do so due to a lack of available frequencies.

“We hope that the SA (DoT) government will recognize this and renegotiate current frequency limitations with the German and US governments. This will unlock South Africa and Cape Town for future growth in these important source markets.”

Follow our AviaDev Updates page for the latest Cape Town news this week.

What are your thoughts on South African aviation and Cape Town specifically? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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