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By Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor

SA aviation sector pays higher charges and faces more stringent regulations than sister countries

Charges and fees constitute as much as 70% of the cost of a single flight ticket.

The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) in a frank conversation with Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has outlined several problems facing the country’s aviation sector.

Sisulu met with AASA CEO Aaron Munetsi on Friday amid reports of airline seat shortages and the rising cost of flights, which is hampering the tourism sector’s recovery from the 2020 pandemic.

‘A multitude of headwinds’

Munetsi outlined a wide range of regulatory, operational and global economic impacts confronting the country’s aviation sector.

Key issues that affect travel and tourism include regulatory issues both in South Africa and her peer destinations.

Sisulu heard that even before the Covid-19 crisis, airlines in Africa and the rest of the world were already going through tough times.

“While South African airlines have been resilient and led the pack on the continent, the operational disruptions, as well as escalations in costs, have been hard to absorb,” reports the tourism department.

“Escalating costs of operations, regulatory costs such as navigation systems, weather systems, and generally high fixed costs, have been biting.”

  • Jet fuel is currently nearly 73% higher than it was in January 2022.
  • Charges and fees constitute as much as 70% of the cost of a single flight ticket.
  • There are disparities in regulatory burdens and licensing costs between South Africa and sister countries on the continent, where our airlines are subjected to disproportionately higher charges and more stringent regulations than our counterparts.

Sisulu has since committed to tackling this with continental peers through appropriate continental fora.

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Sisulu also sought clarity on working conditions for the sector’s staff, given the pay cuts they had endured during Covid-19 lockdowns and the current pressures faced by all South Africans given the rising cost of living.

Munetsi assured Sisulu that AASA is putting measures to help workers.

“The Minister is satisfied that the airline industry has the right mindset in this regard, and the department will monitor the situation as time goes on, given the volatility in economic conditions,” said the department.

AASA noted that due to the cash-intensive nature of the aviation industry, a lot of investment is made upfront.

“Given that the most important investment airlines have made is towards people and skills, the airlines were determined to do whatever is possible to defend the gains they’ve made in people – which investment has ensured that South Africa is ranked amongst the safest in global aviation.”

Aviation sector visa challenges

Sisulu has committed to supporting efforts by the aviation industry to resolve the bottlenecks in Visas, including interactions with her cabinet colleagues.

Airlines’ have also committed to leading solutions, including placing their own resources on the table and working with government to deal with both regulatory and other constraints.

“It was a difficult meeting but frank discussion, with a lot to absorb.

However, I believe we are up to the challenge for the sake of travellers, the industry, and the economy at large”, concluded Sisulu.

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