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THE COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact across the world. As an industry that facilitates mobility and human interaction, travel and tourism has been among the hardest hit.
No one knows when we’ll see busy airports and full hotels. Globally, the aviation industry is in a coma.
The industry is now facing the most serious challenge of the post-war era as the sudden decline in activity across both advanced and developing countries has created a backdrop of higher unemployment and significant contractions in global output. The impact of the virus has also resulted in tighter financial markets with increased credit risk aversion.
Looking at the South African industry, when I see empty airports, and restaurants and shops that were shut down, that environment is akin to horror movie scenes. Air travel has fallen sharply, which has prompted airlines to cut capacity. Given the importance of airports to the development of cities, countries, and regions, the broader impact of Covid-19 on the global economy is enormous. It’s no longer business as usual; we need to keep tabs on the new ways of survival.
Before the pandemic hit, airlines struggled to boost revenue, even as they experienced increasing volumes of passengers and cargo traffic.
Over the past few years, earnings for the global airlines industry grew at a less-than-desirable pace due to unstable fuel prices, increasing competition, the prevalence of low-cost airfare and a drop in world trade.
Known for high fixed operational costs, airlines have often faced a variety of serious market challenges. Now airlines are struggling even more because this pandemic led to people getting retrenched, their salaries being cut down and working from home. This has become a familiar story.
Load factor and ticket per seat have been dropped. Survival has become very tough and we have seen one of the worst December periods. Airlines are fighting for survival in every corner of the world.
Nearly all airlines have been forced to reduce seat volumes drastically. Several airlines do not have the cash power needed to survive such a slump in demand.
Suddenly and unprepared, the once vibrant, economically attractive and viable travel industry screeched to a halt. Unprepared, and nursing economic shock, it didn’t know what to expect next.
The industry went into panic mode in the of process searching for revival or adaptive solutions.
It had to unwittingly move on and face a new world, new working demands and plans. Rules and policies changed so fast and communication almost became impossible for everyone. We witnessed what happened in December.
Travel restrictions and the cancellation of many planned visits, flights, business and leisure events were severely affecting many service sectors.
Beaches were shut down, people were forced to cancel domestic travel, and borders were closed. No one was allowed to travel from one place to another.
The new normal had ghosted in, and for the first time, travel and outdoor enthusiasts were forced to be homebound. Even the once-popular shot-lefts or domestic travel and tourism had to be forgotten or shelved indefinitely.
It dawned on us that viral pandemics have a much larger destructive impact on the travel industry and tourism industry.
Private and public policy support must be co-ordinated to sustain preCovid-19 operational levels of the tourism and travel sector.
The policies should include robust, aviation industry-friendly and specific financial windows. The journey will be long and the creation and planning of the policies have to start now.
Typically, predicting the future requires first understanding the past, the Covid-19 crisis, unprecedented and unpredictable nature, its short-term impact and likely long-term implications.
It seems that, with prolonged Covid-19 induced global travel restrictions, travel warnings and on-and-off flight services, the core of the aviation industry may still be prone to a lot of turbulence, threatening and slowing down both short and long-term revival plans, in all regions, simultaneously.
Airports and airlines must not overlook a crucial detail regarding this pandemic. Instead, they must work together as one and put competition aside as they are all suffering.
The government has to strike the balance between support for aviation and the need to preserve competition.
No one is to be blamed because the pandemic happened too fast.
As aviation companies, big or small, let’s stand together.
This is not the time to compete, but to co-operate and complement each other, since we all don’t know whether, in the next three to five years, the storm will be over or around.
I can’t even say may the best player win. All I can say is prayer and support, complemented by adaptive approaches and retention of and keeping pace with the new technology and other normal demands, diligent planning and best international practice will see us through.
Javed Malik is an avid aviator and strong advocate of transformation in South Africa , Chairperson of Cobra Aviation, a passenger and cargo operator
Javed Malik (Supplied)

Regional Aviation Working Group of the South African Chapter recently hosted their counterparts in Johannesburg as part of the BRICS Business Council Mid-Term Meeting and handover.

According to Javed Malik, chair of the Regional Aviation Working Group BRICS Business Council SA Chapter, it was characterised by robust discussion and engagements under the theme “Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.

According to Malik, it was agreed that, following the tenth BRICS Summit (2018) at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, at which the signing of the BRICS Memorandum of Understanding on Regional Aviation by all BRICS Ministers of Transport took place, the vision should be to expand and deepen cooperation in regional aviation.
 
Report backs on five projects were presented by each of the countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Delegates were mandated to come up with a detailed feasibility reports and market forecasts linking route networks between BRICS countries. The outcome of this report would enable a way forward to plan direct flights and bilateral cooperation between BRICS countries.

Also launched, was a programme named Aviation2Rise, which was presented by South Africa and validated by the five nations of the working group. To be held every year during the BRICS Annual Meeting, this concept will connect aerospace innovations and start-ups to aviation stakeholders from the BRICS.

By Musa Ndlangamandla 

The South African aviation industry contributes more than R74billion to the economy and supports 350000 jobs within the airlines, airports, grounds and auxiliary levels.

However, today’s aviation environment in South Africa and the greater continent is more challenging and competitive than ever. If ever there was a time for the continent to redefine the aviation sector as a powerful tool for socio-economic development it is now.

While this is no mean feat, one businessman in South Africa, Javed Malik, co-founder of PAK Africa Aviation, has demonstrated that he is equal to the task.

The secret behind his never-say-die-spirit? Highly innovative, resolute and an entrepreneur to a fault with a knack for turning challenges into opportunities.

Malik was on November 3 appointed to be the inaugural co-chairperson of the newly formed Regional Aviation Working Group of the South African chapter of Brics Business Council (SA-BBC).

This was at the SA-BBC meeting in Cape Town, presided over by Dr Iqbal Survé, chairperson of the SA-BBC and founder and chairperson of the Sekunjalo Group.

Malik’s passion for aviation started when he was a child. He brings unparalleled experience to the role, having spent 10 years in the aviation industry.

Being a charismatic and energetic aviator, he is known for his deep-rooted relationships in the domestic and global aviation industry.

Malik is also an authoritative writer about South African aviation, politics, travel and the tourism industry. He is also a champion of transformation and economic justice in the domestic and continental aviation industry.

In this wide-ranging conversation with Independent Newspapers, Malik unpacks his vision. 

How do you view your appointment as co-chairperson of the newly formed Regional Aviation Working Group of the SA-BBC, and how do you see yourself shaping the domestic aviation industry into the future?

This is a wonderful, if humbling, opportunity for me. I would like to thank Dr Iqbal Survé, the chairperson of the SA-BBC and his team of directors and executives for the confidence bestowed upon me.

We will work with utmost dedication to set the tone and benchmarks for future activities.

I believe that my experience, education and networks in all realms of the aviation industry will assist my team and I in improving efficiencies, standards and advancing the innovative environment of the industry.

Together we will ensure the industry keeps pace with the continental and global markets.

What about synergies between Brics countries?

Within the Brics nations we have shining examples to follow South Africa regarding key developments in aviation. Fellow Brics nations have made remarkable progress in terms of infrastructure and operations models.

Consider the following examples:

Brazil

Embraer began with regional aircraft and military Coin aircraft, and has advanced into the business jet market to the extent of opening a factory in Florida. It will follow Airbus and Boeing in launching a re-engined version of its E-Jet airliner family. It has big ambitions, too, in military aerospace its Super Tucano light attack aircraft was selected by the US for supply to the Afghan Air Force.

Russia

The country is historically an aerospace technology leader. The Soyuz rocket remains the only way the astronauts of any nation can get to the International Space Station. The country has recorded a degree of commercial aviation success too and has the MC-21 to rival Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.

India

The country has a joint project with Russia to build stealth fighters and is also planning to develop its own unmanned drone.

China

Among the global leaders in its ARJ21 will likely be used mainly by Chinese or close allies of Beijing. Its civil airliner, Comac C919, with state of the art Western systems and equipment is a pacesetter. China will train the bulk of its pilots in South Africa. The country will need 5000 pilots annually over the next 20 years.

South Africa

Our aerospace industry is known for its innovative solutions.The country has two original equipment manufacturers: Denel Dynamics and Advanced Technologies, which produce unmanned air vehicles and missiles. We also have aerostructures and aircraft component manufacturers (Saab Aerostructures and Aerosud) and some small manufacturers of sports aircraft and gliders. There are also companies manufacturing avionics and sensors.

Surely this augurs well for South Africa and greater Africa, doesn’t it?

South Africa, and greater Africa’s aviation industry, holds great promise for expansion. We need to exploit this opportunity and encourage the private sector to be fully involved and address the issue of connectivity on the continent. We need to do this before this market is completely taken over by non-African carriers.

What will be the primary focus of the newly formed Regional Aviation Working Group within Brics Business Forum?

The working group will integrate and provide critical economic links for growing the aerospace sector. Remember, aviation is a catalyst for economic growth, intra-continental trade, poverty alleviation through job creation.

Our primary focus will be to bring together leading representatives of the aviation sectors representing government authorities, airlines, aerospace industries and service providers.

We want to start and maintain strategic dialogue on the prospective aviation matters among the Brics countries. We will hit the ground running to commission a market survey that will look into the experiences and competencies of the Brics bloc.

Our goal is to develop a strong sector in both passenger and cargo transport among Brics countries. Working together we will promote joint ventures on establishing maintenance, repair and operating facilities. We will also promote secondary airports and the balance of traffic rights agreed in the underlying bilateral agreements among Brics member states.

Safety and security matters within the aviation space of Brics are of paramount importance. This is further made crucial by the new and emerging threats to human lives, goods and services. As the working group we will ensure enhanced co-operation, sharing of ideas and continuous enhancement in this area.

What about skills transfer and transformation in aviation within Brics nations in general, and South Africa specifically?

In South Africa’s aviation sector 95percent of the people are male and white. Women are mostly found in semi and unskilled levels. Recent government statistics show that out of the 793 pilots currently employed by South African Airways only 70 (8percent) are female. Of the 214 pilots employed at South African Express only 21, (10percent) are female.

As the working group we will continue to champion transformation in the domestic aviation industry to ensure the inclusion of more young people, women and intermediate skilled people. The barriers of entry to the professional and technical realms of the industry must be broken down as we seek to increase the meaningful engagement of black, previously disadvantaged, female and young people in the technical occupational levels. Working together with our counterparts in Brics we will make a contribution to correct these imbalances of the past and ensure the production of skilled personnel to meet current and future demands.

Coupled with that we will exchange knowledge and resources regarding technology and innovation to ensure skills development. This is not just within the human capital space, but also in research and development, innovation and development of world-class, cutting-edge products. In collaboration with the other working groups within Brics, we will focus on ensuring continuous education and training. The private sector and educational institutions across the Brics bloc shall be encouraged to come on board with formal and informal training opportunities, exchange programmes, internships, bursaries and apprenticeships.

How does this dovetail the National Development Plan?

Youth and women empowerment are key imperatives of the NDP and as a working group we will make this a key priority.

We have discussed this with Dr Survé, and he has assured us of his full support as we pursue the journey of meaningful transformation.

It is a cardinal priority for all sectors of the economy. If it does not happen we will not only see our industry, but the whole country deteriorate.

In conclusion, let us dispense with the questions on everyone’s mind. Our investigations from various key executives in the aviation space revealed that you are nominated to join Mango Airlines as chief executive.

We found that all of the recruitment and auxiliary processes have been concluded and you are the front runner.

Could the industry, once again, be falling into the trap of looking outside when there are highly qualified, experienced and talented individuals locally?

What, in your view, is holding up the process of making the official announcement?

I wouldn’t like to comment on the question you have raised. I think that matter is best left with the authorities who are handling it. They are in the best position to respond to your question.

– BUSINESS REPORT

BY MIRIRO MATEMA 

Attracting tourists to South Africa is a task that’s been completed tenfold by the beautiful city of Cape Town, being named the number one favourite city in Africa and the Middle East for the 17th year running by Travel + Leisure’s 2018 reader’s poll.

As one of the major international gateways to Africa, South Africa is benefiting from the growth in global tourism more than most African countries due to its healthy mix of a stunning location, diverse culture and economic lure for business travellers.

In one of Nomad Africa’s most intriguing and certainly in-depth interviews yet, we speak with former Co-Chair of Skywise Airline and current Chairman of BRICS Aviation Working Group on a broad range of topics including his lessons in running a low cost airline, how to capitalize on tourists’ desires to travel more across the continent and the future of South Africa’s travel industry.

Nomad Africa: Every destination wants more tourists but South Africa is slowly growing those numbers by learning to tap in to different markets like younger travellers. What are some of the lessons that you learned in running a low cost airline. What works and what doesn’t work?

Javed Malik: Air travel in Africa as a whole is a hot subject on everybody’s mind, and it’s been on our minds for quite a long time. It is moderately more expensive compared to European and American markets. As such, many people would still prefer to take a sixteen hour bus ride from Johannesburg to Cape Town instead of a two hour flight.

South Africa is a very unique market and we have learned some important lessons from running a low cost airline. For example, every cent matters. It is not enough to create a system and expect every day to function in that manner. Each day brings a set of new challenges and knowing how those challenges impact the expenses and revenue is critical to success.

We’ve learned the importance of effective leadership. The entrepreneurial style of taking risks and being quick to make decisions is so important in the airline business, or any business for that matter. Some leaders can get stuck in the corporate way of doing things, like long and slow processes to making decisions, and not willing to be innovative in how challenges are solved. Growing your market share is a hard climb uphill. Being an agile leader will make or break your business.

Malik receiving award of recognition (best performance) at BRICS gala dinner held recently in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nomad Africa: What’s one mistake you’ve made when it comes to running an airline?

Malik: We learn from our mistakes and yes there were a few we faced along the way. While there are no mistakes that jump out at me, one thing that is clear is the importance of skills development and skills transfer in the younger generation. This is something every leader in aviation needs to put more effort into. There is a shortage of experienced pilots, yet you will find the cost of pilot training is over R1 million. Which young and ambitious African has that kind of money laying around? So you will find the aviation leaders hold all the skills and knowledge to navigate the industry and there’s a big divide to developing the youth.

Nomad Africa: What about looking forward? The African market is young and is obviously evolving. What are some of the trends you see that pan-African destinations have to consider for the future. Are travelers’ habits changing at all? Are a different sector of African citizens traveling?

Malik: That’s a very good question.

There’s a change looming and it is very noticeable when it comes to the “independent traveller.” These are younger people who are engaged and responsive to technology. Younger people are comfortable using apps as guides and traveling alone backpacking from one location to another. You’ll see multiple Instagram accounts of young people sharing their travel experiences and in turn motivating other young travellers to visit local destinations. This is not to say that group travel is dead, but these new trends tie back to social networking and the way that tourism boards, tour operators and transport owners market a city through social channels.

Nomad Africa: In your view, what role does the government play in attracting more tourists?

Malik: You know, the government has a big role to play. Not just in policy making but also in showcasing the country as being open for business. In 2015, visa restrictions were put in place to curb child trafficking but this has made coming into the country much harder. Travellers become averse visiting countries that offer long waiting periods and piles of paperwork to be submitted prior to making the trip. But now the government plans to overhaul its limitations to woo visitors. In addition, government can invest in marketing its destinations more widely. Look at SA Tourism and how it has been pushing the “Sh’ot Left” campaign to drive more South Africans to travel within the country. Imagine that same push on a global scale!

If you look at the national carrier, it is in a shaky position. But we must realize, SAA fulfills a bigger function than just carrying passengers from one destination to the next. The national carrier is a brand and first touch point to the world. It is therefore important for the management of the airline to think innovatively, respond quicker to challenges and boost internal transformation.

Visitors are getting to know a lot about South Africa from what they see in the movies and on the news but the message isn’t always one that we want to portray. We want to make sure that South Africa isn’t just seen as a violent nation. There are so many cultural and wildlife opportunities to take advantage of. South Africa has beaches, deserts, safaris and even something for the city slicker. Government and tour operators should be working together to develop itineraries for young travelers who seek the hidden gems and unchartered destinations.

Nomad Africa: The desire to live like a local is trend that we’re seeing around the world. What are your thoughts on the impact of technology on Africa’s travel industry and the opportunities that it provides visitors looking for a more local experience?

Malik: Technology makes it more cost effective for us to promote who we are and what we have to offer business and leisure travellers. Apps like Instagram and AirBnB make it easier for the ordinary person to share their story. Each distinct city has its own story to tell. We need to encourage each other to keep telling those stories.

Nomad Africa: You are the Chairman of the BRICS Aviation Working Group. What are your goals and what have you achieved so far?

Malik: One of our many roles is to promote regular dialogue between the business communities in aviation of the BRICS nations and the Governments of the BRICS countries, identifying problems and providing innovative solutions to ensure greater economic trade and investment ties, maximising opportunities for the benefit of the aviation industry and the country. BRICS includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

What was monumental for us was the signing of the MOU earlier this year. It puts the aviation industry at the center of focus and provides an opportunity for people to get a close look at what’s going on. My outlook is that the public sector is going to work alongside the traditional aviation community in providing solutions for the travel and tourism industry and that will result in higher visitation for the BRICS nations.

If we could break it down, the purpose of the MoU is to promote the comprehensive development of regional aviation cooperation between the BRICS countries. It will establish an institutional framework for cooperation on civil aviation issues, including regional connectivity policies and practices, air navigation services, airport infrastructure management, qualification and training, plus civil aviation regulations and regulatory agencies. We are working on a process to make sure that airlines work effectively and efficiently.

Malik at the interview with Nomad Africa magazine. Malik is the chairman/co- founder of Cobra Aviation Group, BRICS Aviation Group and chairman of transport portfolio committee at Black Business Council.

Nomad Africa: What would you suggest to other African countries to encourage tourism on the continent? How can that dynamic be improved?

Malik: We need greater collaboration. Each country cannot work in isolation, we need to work together to attract more visitors. As one of the major gateways into the continent, South Africa has the advantage when it comes to having the resources to boost tourism. When people travel easily across the continent, they spend more on goods and services, they expose the local community to fresh skills and they drive us to expand the range of goods and services we have to offer. That kind of collaboration and participation can jump start economies.

By Javed Malik Time of article published May 13, 2019JOHANNESBURG – To most people, the “sky is the limit”, but to those who love aviation “the sky” is their home and there is no limit.

The BRICS Regional Aviation Working Group, which I lead, is now at a dynamic stage of development and at the BRICS Business Forum, the majority of the countries involved – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – emphasised the importance of growth and business opportunities in the aviation sector.

However, red tape hurdles exist that hinder this sector.

Air travel needs to be made easier and more accessible, with better visa policies to boost the sector and promote growth.

To enable this a united sky policy for BRICS countries is needed with one trade policy, one currency and one passport.

BRICS member countries said they were eager to invest in aviation.

A milestone was achieved and a memorandum of understanding was signed by BRICS transport ministers on July 22 last year for mutual benefit to bolster the regional aviation sector.

An implement framework was designed to support co-operation for BRICS countries to integrate the aviation industry.

The resolution was passed by a house full of passionate aviators.

Four projects were adopted and divided into BRICS Aviation Working Group countries, where each country will lead one project. A way forward was established.

I am most confident that the BRICS Aviation working group will make rapid progress. This confidence comes from knowing that I have a team that is committed and dedicated.

We took the first step to a right direction and it complements our Open Sky Policy in Africa and free trade zone policies.

The BRICS aviation resolution is important to South Africa as it creates a runway for economic opportunities and the creation of jobs to take off.

South Africa needs growth levels multiple times faster than the forecast to meaningfully reduce unemployment, with about a quarter of the labour force currently out of work.

The International Air Transport Association forecasts a 5.9percent year-on-year growth in African aviation over the next 20 years in the fastest-growing global region, with passenger numbers expected to increase from 100million to more than 300million by 2026.

To create local jobs, the South African Skills Development Act recommends that there should be a continuous platform for youth and training academies as regards the defence and aviation sector.

All African airlines need to position themselves to take advantage of this growth outlook and compete more effectively to become profitable.

In the coming years we will see more investments coming to South Africa in terms of job creation and B-to-B Corporations.

It sounds like a long walk to economic freedom.

But it is said in China: “If you have a 1000-mile journey, you need to take the first step”.

The message from President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is striving to attract $100billion (R1.41trillion) in investment to the country, is to tell the world SA Inc is open for business.

But I have no doubt that South Africa will achieve the target before the expected time.

Javed Malik is chairperson of the BRICS Aviation Group and co-founder and the chairperson of Cobra Aviation Group.

BUSINESS REPORT 

By Javed Malik Time of article published Jul 30, 2018JOHANNESBURG – To most people the “sky is the limit”, but to those who love aviation “the sky” is their home and there is no limit.

I was honoured recently to lead the BRICS Regional Aviation Working Group (RAWG) under the South African flag.

RAWG is at a dynamic stage of development and at the BRICS Business Forum, the majority of the countries – Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa – emphasised the importance of growth and business opportunities in the aviation sector.

However, red tape hurdles exist that hinder this sector. Air travel needs to be made easier and more accessible with better visa policies to boost the sector and promote growth.

To enable this a united sky policy for BRICS countries is needed with one trade policy, one currency and one passport.

BRICS member countries said they were eager to invest in aviation.

A milestone was achieved and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by BRICS transport ministers on July 22 for mutual benefit to bolster the regional aviation sector.

An implement framework was designed to support co-operation for BRICS countries to integrate the aviation industry.

The flags of South Africa, India, Russia, Brazil and China are displayed at a BRICS conference. Picture: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

The resolution was passed by a house full of passionate aviators. Four projects were adopted and divided into BRICS Aviation Working Group countries, where each country will lead one project. A way forward was established. I am most confident that the BRICS Aviation working group will make rapid progress.

This confidence comes from knowing that I have a team that is committed and dedicated. We took the first step to a right a direction and it compliments our Open Sky Policy in Africa and free trade zone policies.

The BRICS aviation resolution is important to South Africa, as it creates a runway for economic opportunities and the creation of jobs to take off.

South Africa needs growth levels many times faster than the forecast to meaningfully reduce unemployment, with about a quarter of the labour force currently out of work.

The International Air Transport Association forecasts a 5.9percent year-on-year growth in African aviation over the next 20 years as the fastest growing global region, with passengers number expected to increase from 100million to more than 300million by 2026.

To create local jobs, the South African Skills Development Act recommends that there should be a continuous platform for youth and training academies as regards the defence and aviation sector.

All African airlines need to position themselves to take advantage of this growth outlook and compete more effectively to become profitable.

In the coming years we will see more investments coming to South Africa in terms of job creation and Benefit to Benefit Corporations.

It sounds like a long walk to economic freedom.

But it is said in China: “If you have a thousand mile journey you need to take the first step”.

The message from President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is striving to attract $100billion (R1.31trillion) in investment to the country, is to tell the world SA Inc is open for business.

But I have no doubt that South Africa will achieve the target before the expected time.

Javed Malik is chairperson of the BRICS Aviation Group and co-founder and chairperson of Cobra Aviation Group.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

– BUSINESS REPORT

OPINION: Aviation sector after Covid-19
By Opinion Time of article published Jul 22, 2020
By Javed Malik
The past few years in the South African aviation sector the industry thought it had seen the worst of times, but after this Covid-19 pandemic, nobody knows how to handle the challenges ahead. The aviation and leisure sector is one of the hard hit sectors in the world.

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the aviation industry due to travel restrictions and a slump in demand among travellers. We witnessed many airlines forced to cancel flights, severely reducing revenue.
This has forced many airlines to close down and retrench almost half of their work force. Other airlines have declared bankruptcy or gone in to business rescue.The question that remains in my mind is how we can survive and go through this period.
I believe we are going to start the year 2022 on the same page where we were on January 2020. Everyone is anxious about a future full of air travel business activity, but post-Covid-19 air operators in South Africa and across the globe may remain clueless of the future, further negatively impacting industry growth and expansion and the greater tourism industry.

Several things will have to be considered for the aviation industry in South Africa and internationally to bounce back, chief among them being how to reboot the low confidence and willingness of air travellers to begin to travel in large numbers.
When the situation gets back to normal, people won’t be able to fly immediately. There is likely to be an amount of undecidedness. Vigorous and widespread advertising and marketing would be needed to boost confidence among travellers.
I see a short-term outlook where most travellers are likely to take time to put their money in leisure vacations, leaving business travellers and other smaller, but significant travel niches like the government and NGOs among those most in need of travel by air.

Naturally, the three sectors’ have high and inevitable financial means or the potential to kick-start regular air travel globally.
The fact remains that in comparison with other travel niches as above stated, their numbers are only a small fraction of the overall or combined air travel figures.
This scenario will hit the aviation industry hard, forcing many players – both big and small – to remain uncertain of their future as is the current case.

Relief:
It’s good to see some of the government supporting airline industries in their own countries by planning to ease out restrictions and gradually return to normality, even though aviation still looks far from recovering.
Over the past few months, governments have been providing their domestic industries with different types of financial support in the form of takeovers, relief packages and bailouts. Once again authorities left us alone like orphans to fight our own battles and they like to see how things are going to be. If we survive it’s good, if we don’t good luck.
At the same time we cannot blame the government because they have too many predicaments on their side.
Relief for the industry is the key for goodwill building, job retention and creation of a sense of belonging while ensuring help to the South African economy to remain stable and also influence the development of related and other industrial sectors down the line.
Needless to say that the aviation industry always welcomes and values government interventions at the policy level, bringing confidence and pride to the broader air transport and tourism industry.
Maximise:
During the pandemic most people in the industry have been forced to focus on their welfare, never mind that of others. Concern for what tomorrow holds for each one has become central to how decisions are taken, therefore, putting the collective principle on hold or in danger.
Lockdown is the time to find ways on how best to maximize aviation industry potential and growth. Questions likely to be asked by aviation industry experts and others would likely be like these: What does the future of aviation look like given the current status quo of the global economies? How far should insurance schemes for the aviation sector go to embrace the outcomes of diseases such as Covid-19 in the future? What about relief for the sector, in particular here in South Africa were currently no plans exist to capacitate airlines and key workers?
My fear, perhaps shared by others, is that the negative trend may continue in to the near future. This, despite the aviation sector year-in-year-out receiving millions of rands poured in by the government and private investors, a reality that always amuses me.
Loads of money is being lost annually and the industry’s long-term operational capacity remains unclear.
Besides the current health crisis, the other situations causing the South African aviation sector to struggle is the selling of seats when airlines are not making money, high interest costs on loans, volatile and crazy dancing fluctuating US dollar impacting fuel price, insufficient revenue and cash generation in relation to operating cost.
Decisions:
We pray that the South African skies will once again get busy with passenger air activity in contrast with the current situation where there are more cargo flights engaged in essential interventions.
Precaution must, however, be taken going into the future and shouldn’t blind aviators from any opportunities and possibilities that could exist, now or in the future.
It is also important for South Africa to open leisure travelling with precautions as soon as possible, even though it’s going to be difficult to attract leisure traveller and tourism.
In the end, the future of South African aviation will be determined with the right and positive thinking and perhaps above all, decision-making, keep praying and bringing more abilities.
Let’s all do all we can as individuals and stakeholders of the aviation sector and the rest of the community at national and provincial levels to flatten the Covid-19 curve and help our passenger flights back to serious business. Together we will win the war against the current pandemic and the economic downturn.
Javed Malik is the chairman of Cobra Aviation Group.

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