By Dominick Andoh
Many international and regional airlines operating in the country will be suspending flight services temporarily, effective today, for between one and two months, following travel restrictions imposed to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Turkish Airlines, TAP Portugal, Emirates, Brussels, Egypt Air, and Africa World Airlines (AWA) have all indicated that they will be suspending flight operations temporarily, in line with the travel advisory issued by the Government of Ghana and other COVID-19-related developments in Europe, the UK and US.
TAP Portugal has suspended operations for two months, while Egypt Air suspended operations on March 19 and is expected to resume on March 31.
RwandAir today suspended operations for a month, while Turkish Airlines is suspending operations effective today until April 18.
Emirates will suspend operations starting March 21 until May 20, and Brussels Airlines will pause flights starting March 21 until April 19.
Air France will halt operations effective March 23 until further notice, and KLM effective March 28 until further notice.
Indigenous airline Africa World is suspending flight operations to Abidjan and Freetown from March 20 and March 22 respectively, in accordance with instructions issued by the governments of the two countries.
AWA, in a statement copied to Business24, said passengers on cancelled flights will receive notification of the cancellation via their original booking channel, and may either rebook to a future date or seek a refund.
“AWA continues to operate flights from Accra to Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, Wa, Lagos, Abuja and Monrovia at this time,” the statement added.
Ethiopian Airlines and Asky Airlines have indicated that they will still operate, albeit with significantly reduced flight frequencies until the COVID-19 is brought under control and things normalise.
The Government of Ghana, as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease, issued a new travel advisory that bans all travel by non-Ghanaians into Ghana from countries with at least 200 cases of coronavirus.
The travel advisory, issued on March 15, also outlined measures to quarantine Ghanaians travelling into Accra from countries subject to the ban.
The downturn in the industry is expected to significantly affect the expected revenue of the airports operator, Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), and its ability to service loans secured for major on-ground projects, such as the renowned Terminal 3 of the Kotoka International Airport.
Based on the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) projections, the current drop in load factor—a measure of airlines’ capacity utilisation—will continue for the next three months before loads recover to pre-coronavirus levels.
IATA estimates, under two potential scenarios—partial containment and widespread community transmission—that passenger revenue losses for its member airlines will be between US$63 billion and US$113 billion.