State-owned airlines in Africa are not operating at the capacity they should be, says Boeing sub-Saharan Africa MD Miguel Santos.
Speaking to Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa’s forty-seventh annual general assembly, in KwaZulu-Natal, he noted that, in South Africa, there were major problems with the national carrier, but that private carriers, such as Comair and FlySafair, were doing well and growing.
“If government stays out of the business of running airlines, South African Airways (SAA) could do well,” he said.
He noted, however, that certain State-owned airlines, such as Ethiopian Airlines were run very well.
"Angola-based TAAG Airlines, for example, is being successfully turned around," he said.
He highlighted that there was good potential in Africa’s aviation industry and that some airlines were capable of buying their own aeroplanes without government interference.
“For many years, Africa was perceived as the dumping ground for old aeroplanes; however, over the last few years, airlines have purchased brand new aircraft from the assembly lines at Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer and Airbus,” he said.
Santos further stated that although there were 54 countries in Africa, it was not feasible for each country to have its own national carrier.
“There has to be some harmonisation of these airlines. There are nine airlines in Africa that ‘count’, and SAA is one of them.”
A major challenge in the aviation industry in Africa, he noted, was the lack of connectivity and open skies agreements on the continent.
He stated that market forces should determine which airlines succeed and which do not.
Santos said Africa’s carriers are expected to grow by about 5.9% a year over the next 20, driven by overall improved economic growth and increasing numbers of travellers to, from and within the region.
He added that, over the next 20 years, Africa will need around 1 220 new aircraft to be brought in to satisfy industry growth and meet market demand.