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Virus restrictions ground most of Africa's airlines: association

[ABIDJAN] Almost all of Africa's airlines are currently grounded because of the coronavirus pandemic and several could go bankrupt, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) warned on Thursday.

"Today, 95 per cent of African planes are grounded owing to the pandemic, save for cargo flights," AFRAA secretary general Abderrahmane Berthe told AFP.

A large number of African states have closed their airports and borders because of the virus, forcing carriers to scrap inter-African as well as inter-continental flights.

"If the African carriers do not receive support they will find themselves insolvent come the end of June," warned Mr Berthe, who calculated that the sector would require a bailout of between US$2.5 billion to US$3 billion (S$3.63 to S$4.74 billion) in emergency aid or tax concessions.

"African carriers were already in a precarious state well before the Covid-19 pandemic. They have been making losses for a decade while other companies elsewhere were making money," Mr Berthe said.

"The past fortnight has been catastrophic for African carriers whose planes are grounded. They have no revenue while at the same time they face costs they cannot squeeze" such as plane hire, maintenance, insurance and parking fees.

AFRAA's 45 member carriers account for 85 per cent of inter-African traffic totaling 93 million passengers a year.

Although Africa accounts for just a two per cent share of global air traffic, passenger numbers on the continent have been doubling every 15 to 20 years.