Aviation no longer a luxury for the privileged - airline leader

Aviation is no longer a luxury for the privileged few, it's a requirement for everybody so accessibility of air travel that is affordable is critical if we want this region's aviation sector to grow, Carla da Silva, who heads up Air Mauritius Southern Africa and Latin America, recently told Fin24.

She says it is estimated that more than 300 million people will be travelling from, to, and within Africa in the next 20 years.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2008 100.8 million passenger journeys were flown to, from and within Africa. In 2018 this had risen to 145.2 million passenger journeys.

IATA forecasts this will reach 356 million by 2038 if current regional and global economic trends continue. 

Yet, for aviation to be a catalyst of prosperity, borders must be open to people and to trade, according to Da Silva.   

The more people connected through flying, the greater the benefits to all the people of the world.

Air Mauritius is today a 4-star International Airline, generating revenue of €500m and carrying 1.7 million passengers with new generation aircrafts, both A350-900 and A330-900 Neos. Air Mauritius is the first airline globally to operate both these types of new generation aircraft simultaneously globally, according to Da Silva.

The airline has been flying safely for 52 years to Mauritius and strategically to all the developing markets connecting Asia to Africa by having established the Air Corridor between these two continents via Mauritius. Mauritius has also been established as the FinTech hub in Africa, according to Da Silva.

Air Mauritius flies daily to Johannesburg, four times weekly to Durban and twice weekly to Cape Town directly from Mauritius.

"Mauritius is a second home to many South Africans as it is only four hours away from South Africa. Mauritius requires no visa, has not malaria or health challenges and is renowned for its peaceful nature," says Da Silva.

Trends she has seen include migration to Mauritius as well as the establishment of South African entities, subsidiaries or satellite offices. Business travel to Mauritius and beyond Mauritius, using Mauritius as a hub has also increased substantially. Meetings, Incentives and Conferences are extremely popular in Mauritius.

Mauritius has been enjoying good traffic growth from Asia, India, Australia but also from Europe.

Da Silva says aviation in Africa is one of the fastest growing sectors perhaps in the world.

"Aviation is the backbone of the economy, it drives tourism and is an economic enabler for economies. The growth in an economy is underpinned by aviation and acts as key facilitator for economies. The interesting factor is that it also requires a substantial labour force so aviation can certainly address the employment imperatives that the region is facing," she says.

Growth hampered

There are several challenges hampering the growth of aviation in Africa, in her view. The serious and problematic barriers for airlines to travel between Africa. is one. Pricing is also substantially more expensive when travelling between African countries.

Another key challenge is the lack of liberalisation of these air markets. It is very challenging for African airlines to get flying rights between major African cities. It has been proven that when there is an agreement on a liberal air market, the number of passengers rises about 50%.

The third challenge relates to visas. Africans require visas to travel to 55% of the countries on the continent. This challenge impacts businesses and leisure travel. A single visa requirement across the continent just like in parts of Europe would generate more air travel and allow the region to grow and expand, in her view.
"The challenge is that there are governments in Africa that want to support national carriers, which comes at the expense of the average citizens who want to travel, so they keep the ticket prices extremely expensive. Africa has 54 countries, and each country has its own history, its own challenges, and its own opportunities," says Da Silva.

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