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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

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