By Dominick Andoh
The load factor-the proportion of airline seats that are filled-of major international airlines servicing the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has dipped by between 10-15 percent since the end of February, following travel restrictions announced by some states and passenger apprehension about the spread of the coronavirus in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.
Regional airlines operating flights between Accra and other destinations in West Africa also confirmed between a 10-12 percent drop in passenger numbers to Business24.
Dick van Nieuwenhuyzen, Air France-KLM Country Manager, confirmed the industry-wide drop in load factor and a 10 percent drop in forward booking for April and May to Business24.
“Yes, there has been about 10-15 percent drop in load. A lot of Business Class passengers are not travelling anymore, or postponing their trip or cancelling the trip. If they cancel, I don’t expect they will rebook later. If someone is going on holiday, they will postpone and travel later in the year, but with Business Class passengers they may be going for a meeting, and if the meeting is cancelled you don’t go again,” he said.
Senior Africa World Airlines (AWA) officials also confirmed that the number of passengers on their Accra-Lagos flights has reduced by about 10 percent, brought on by passenger fears due to the geographical spread of the coronavirus. Fortunately, domestic flights have not been affected, and AWA has plans to increase the frequency on some routes.
Airlines and Travel & Tour operators in Ghana have had to suspend various marketing activities and freeze employment temporarily. For tour operators who don’t have enough reserves to fall on, they may go out of business if the problem persists.
The drop in passenger numbers is compounded by government’s recent ban on all official trips abroad, a move criticised by the aviation and travel industry as sending the wrong signal in a country not affected by the disease as at press time on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Dick van Nieuwenhuyzen believes that people should be able to travel freely to areas where the disease is non-existent.
The downturn in the industry is expected to significantly affect the expected revenue of the airports operator, 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 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 will be between US$63 billion and US$113. (Source: Business24)