Fewer flights for Africa and the Middle East
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued a new, more pessimistic forecast for the aviation industry in Africa and the Middle East – a decidedly negative factor influencing any possibility of an increase in demand for aviation fuel.

IATA said the number of air passengers in the Middle East and Africa at the end of 2020 would be less than a third of the 2019 figure – the forecast issued in July had been 45 % of the 2019 level.

The figure for the Middle East is expected to be 60 million passengers compared to 203 million last year. IATA gave a forecast of 45 million for Africa, compared to 155 million in 2019.

It said it expected the level recorded before the COVID pandemic to be restored no earlier than 2024 in the Middle East and at the end of 2023 in Africa. In 2021, IATA said, Middle East and African carriers would record fewer than half the 2019 figures.

Regional flights have increased since the minimums hit in April, but were still being held in check by limitations on international travel linked to the “second wave” of the pandemic.

A few months ago, we thought that a fall in passenger numbers to 45% of 2019 levels was as bad as it could get. But the second wave, combined with continuing travel restrictions and quarantines, will result in passenger numbers in the region being less than a third of what we had in 2019,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

“This heightens the urgency for governments to adopt systematic COVID-19 testing to restart travel and curb the economic devastation that is being caused because people cannot travel.

At the moment, residents of only two African countries – Rwanda and Tunisia – are permitted to travel to the European Union. Four African carriers have halted operations because of the pandemic and many others are in serious financial difficulty and need help urgently.

Authorities in Rwanda, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso plan to allocate $311 million in support for carriers. Other governments have promised support for the sector estimated at $30 billion, though the help has not yet been forthcoming.

Three international air transport hubs are located in the Middle East – in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

IATA had previously announced that it expected a drop in the number of passengers world-wide of 66 % compared to 2019 levels.

Goldman Sachs said world-wide demand for aviation fuel would climb by 3.9 million bpd by summer 2021 compared to current levels. But experts believe it will take several years for previous passenger numbers and demand for aviation fuel to be restored.

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