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Uganda Airlines has announced it will start flying from its hub at Entebbe to Johannesburg, South Africa from the 31st of May 2021.

The news will come as welcome relief to frequent fliers who were robbed of a direct connection between the two countries after South African Airways pulled out of the route as it desperately restructured its network under business rescue in February 2020 in a bid to avoid collapse.

SAA’s former franchise partner, Airlink subsequently took over the route among many other axed SAA routes but eventually cancelled flights due to a due restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Airlink is expected to re-launch direct services to Entebbe in the near future

Uganda Airlines will operate the route 4 times weekly and has announced through social media that prices will start at a competitive $341 return

The Uganda national carrier is awaiting certification for its wide-body Airbus A330 NEO aircraft to start  flying to planned long haul destinations which will include Dubai, London, Mumbai and Guangzhou

Kenya’s legacy carrier is continuing with its momentum in 2021 by partnering with advanced air mobility (AAM) company Skyports. The airline has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the launch of permanent Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations in the East African country.

The collaboration is already in effect and will include drone delivery and Airport inspection operations.

The aim of the partnership in the coming three months is to explore the commercial viability and impact of a variety of medical, logistical and inspection use cases alongside Kenya’s leading public and private institutions. The target for the launch of the first drone delivery flights is during Q3-Q4 2021.

“Aligning with our purpose of the sustainable development of Africa, this partnership with Skyports will support our diversification plans in drone technology application. This will give us access to available equipment and established operations that will lay the foundation for the Kenyan and regional drone market through our drone and emerging aviation technology subsidiary, Fahari Aviation,” said Allan Kilavuka, chief executive officer Kenya Airways

Duncan Walker, chief executive officer at Skyports, said, “Our partnership with Kenya Airways can unlock significant opportunities for drone deliveries and inspections in Kenya. This will create time and cost savings for our customers and contribute to the growth of the country’s tech and aviation ecosystem. This important partnership underscores the growth potential of Skyports’ tech-agnostic operator approach as a flexible offering which is suited to varying global market requirements. We look forward to working with Kenya Airways and to further demonstrate the viability of AAM in different geographies.”

Kenya Airways seeks to lead the application of drone technology in the region, with the collaboration enabling KQ to be one of Africa’s leading carriers offering training, operations and traffic management services through its wholly owned subsidiary, Fahari aviation.

Skyports is a mobility company developing and operating landing infrastructure for the electric air taxi revolution, as well as operating cargo drone deliveries. The company obtained regulatory approvals to fly the UK’s first beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) medical drone deliveries for the National Health Service (NHS), with operations currently under way. Similarly, Skyports operated the UK Royal Mail’s first drone parcel delivery in Scotland in December 2020.

By Victor Shalton Odhiambo

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects net airline industry losses of $47.7 billion in 2021 (net profit margin of -10.4%). This is an improvement on the estimated net industry loss of $126.4 billion in 2020 (net profit margin of -33.9%).

“This crisis is longer and deeper than anyone could have expected. Losses will be reduced from 2020, but the pain of the crisis increases. There is optimism in domestic markets where aviation’s hallmark resilience is demonstrated by rebounds in markets without internal travel restrictions. Government imposed travel restrictions, however, continue to dampen the strong underlying demand for international travel. Despite an estimated 2.4 billion people travelling by air in 2021, airlines will burn through a further $81 billion of cash,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Immediate Priorities

The outlook points to the start of industry recovery in the latter part of 2021. In the face of the ongoing crisis, IATA calls for:


Plans for a restart in preparation for a recovery
: IATA continues to urge governments to have plans in place so that no time is lost in restarting the sector when the epidemiological situation allows for a re-opening of borders.

“Most governments have not yet provided clear indications of the benchmarks that they will use to safely give people back their travel freedom,  In the meantime, a significant portion of the $3.5 trillion in GDP and 88 million jobs supported by aviation are at risk. Effectively restarting aviation will energize the travel and tourism sectors and the wider economy. With the virus becoming endemic, learning to safely live, work and travel with it is critical. That means governments must turn their focus to risk management to protect livelihoods as well as lives,” said Walsh.

Employment Support: Industry losses of this scale imply a cash burn of $81 billion in 2021 on top of $149 billion in 2020. Government financial relief measures and capital markets have been filling this hole in airline balance sheets, preventing widespread bankruptcies. The industry will recover but more government relief measures, particularly in the form of employment support programmes, will be needed this year.

“Owing to government relief measures, cost-cutting, and success in accessing capital markets, some airlines appear able to ride out the storm. Others are less well-cushioned and may need to raise more cash from banks or capital markets. This will add to the industry’s debt burden, which has ballooned by $220 billion to $651 billion. There is a definite role for governments in providing relief measures that ensure critical employees and skills are retained to successfully restart and rebuild the industry,” said Walsh.

Cost containment/reduction: The whole industry will come out of the crisis financially weakened. Cost containment and reductions, wherever possible, will be key to restoring financial health.

“Containing and reducing costs will be top of mind for airlines. Governments and partners must have the same mentality. And that must be reflected in items big and small. There can be no tolerance for monopoly infrastructure suppliers gouging their customers to recoup losses through higher charges. Equally, we demand an end to the extortionate costs for COVID-19 testing with governments taking their cut on top of that with taxes. Everyone must be aligned in understanding that increased travel costs will mean a slower economic recovery. Cost reduction efforts on all sides are needed,” said Walsh.

Industry Outlook Highlights:

Demand: Travel restrictions, including quarantines, have killed demand. IATA estimates that travel (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) will recover to 43% of 2019 levels over the year. While that is a 26% improvement on 2020, it is far from a recovery. Domestic markets will improve faster than international travel. Overall passenger numbers are expected to reach 2.4 billion in 2021. That is an improvement on the nearly 1.8 billion who traveled in 2020, but well below the 2019 peak of 4.5 billion.

  • International passenger traffic remained 86.6% down on pre-crisis levels over the first two months of 2021. Vaccination progress in developed countries, particularly the US and Europe, is expected to combine with widespread testing capacity to enable a return to some international travel at scale in the second half of the year, reaching 34% of 2019 demand levels. 2021 and 2020 have opposite demand patterns: 2020 started strong and ended weak, while 2021 is starting weak and is expected to strengthen towards year-end. The result will be zero international growth when comparing the two years.
  • Domestic passenger traffic is expected to perform significantly better than international markets. This is driven by strong GDP growth (5.2%), accumulated consumer disposable cash during lockdowns, pent-up demand, and the absence of domestic travel restrictions. IATA estimates that domestic markets could recover to 96% of pre-crisis (2019) levels in the second half of 2021. That would be a 48% improvement on 2020 performance.

Cargo: Cargo has outperformed the passenger business throughout the crisis. That trend is expected to continue throughout 2021. Demand for cargo is expected to grow by 13.1% over 2020. This puts the cargo business in positive territory compared to pre-crisis levels (2020 saw a full-year decline of 9.1% compared to 2019). Total cargo volumes are expected to reach 63.1 million tonnes in 2021. That’s nearly at the pre-crisis peak of 63.5 million tonnes which occurred in 2018.

Revenues: Industry revenues are expected to total $458 billion. That’s just 55% of the $838 billion generated in 2019 but represents 23% growth on the $372 billion generated in 2020.

  • Passenger revenues are expected to total $231 billion, up from $189 billion in 2020, but far below the $607 billion generated in 2019.
  • Cargo revenues are expected to reach $152 billion, a historic high. This is up from $128 billion in 2020 and $101 billion in 2019. Capacity remains constrained owing to the large-scale grounding of the passenger fleet. This removed significant belly capacity, driving up yields 40% in 2020, with a further 5% growth expected in 2021. In 2021 cargo will account for a third of industry revenues. This is significantly above cargo’s historic contribution, which ranged around 10-15% of total revenues. The improvement in cargo, however, is not able to offset the dramatic decline in passenger revenues.

Costs: Airlines have not been able to cut costs as fast as revenues have fallen. Recently we have seen worrying cost trends in fuel and infrastructure:

  • Fuel: The cost of jet kerosene fell to $46.6/barrel in 2020. But, with the pick-up in economic activity fuel costs are on the rise. Jet kerosene is expected to rise to an average of $68.9/barrel in 2021, nearing the 2019 average price of $77/barrel.
  • Non-fuel: Non-fuel unit costs rose by 17.5% in 2020 as fixed costs were spread over dramatically reduced capacity. As capacity grows in 2021and airline cost-cutting efforts mature, this will partially reverse itself with a 15% decline. “We have seen some worrying signs from our airport and air navigation service providers. Heathrow, for example, is attempting to recoup pandemic losses by expanding its regulated cost base. We are in this crisis together with our partners. Recouping losses from one another is not the answer. We all need to tighten our belts. And the regulators need to act and stamp out monopolistic behaviours,” said Walsh.

Capacity:  Capacity is likely to return at a slower pace than demand. That reflects the pressure on airlines from debt and fuel prices to operate only cashflow-positive services. Taking cargo and passenger traffic into account, the overall weighted load factor is forecast to rise a little to 60.3% in 2021. This is considerably below the 66% we estimate to be breakeven for profitability in 2021 – even though cash costs of operations are being covered.

Regional Highlights

Significant differentiation is emerging between regions with large domestic markets and those relying primarily on international traffic. Losses are highest in Europe (-$22.2 billion) with only 11% of its passenger traffic (RPK) being domestic. Proportionately, losses are much smaller in North America (-$5.0 billion) and Asia-Pacific (-$10.5 billion) where domestic markets are larger (66% and 45% respectively, pre-crisis).

REGION 2021 DEMAND
VS 2019
2021 CAPACITY VS 2019 2021 PROFIT
(% OF REVENUES)
2020 PROFIT
(% OF REVENUES)
World -57.0% -47.2% -$47.7 billion
(-10.4%)
-$126.4 billion
(-33.9%)
North America -41.5% -29.2% -$5.0%
(-2.7%)
-$35.1 billion
(-26.8%)
Europe -66.3% -57.1% -$22.2 billion
(-23.9%)
-$34.5 billion
(-43.0%)
Asia Pacific -57.8% -47.6% -$10.5 billion
(-8.8%)
-$35.0 billion
(-31.1%)
Middle East -67.6% -58.9% -$4.2 billion
(-13.8%)
-$7.9 billion
(-28.9%)
Latin America -48.9% -45.2% -$4.0 billion
(-20.4%)
-$11.9 billion
(-80.1%)
Africa -64.5% -53.6% -$1.7 billion
(-24.0%)
-$2.0 billion
(-32.0%)
  • North American carriers are best placed to take advantage of the rapid vaccination boost to domestic travel in the US, as well as the strong economy driving air cargo demand. Losses are reduced to the lowest in any region at -2.7% of total revenues. In 2020 net losses were -26.8% of total revenues.
  • European carriers are highly dependent on international passenger revenues, with domestic markets representing only 11% of RPKs. Along with testing, vaccines will play an important role in reopening international travel. Uneven vaccination rollout was already expected to limit the number of international markets opening this year. Slower vaccination in Europe will also restrict the recovery of the important within-Europe market and the North Atlantic. Net losses are expected to be reduced at the slowest rate among the major regions. The region’s carriers are expected to see net losses fall to -23.9% of revenues for 2021 (from -43% in 2020).
  • Asia-Pacific carriers see 45% of their RPKs generated on domestic markets and will benefit from the strength of the Chinese domestic market recovery, as well as the relative importance of air cargo to the region. Net losses are expected to be reduced from -31.1% of revenues in 2020 to -8.8% of revenues this year.
  • Middle Eastern carriers will benefit from relatively rapid vaccination rates on home markets. They will be hampered, however, by continued travel restrictions on many of the routes to emerging economies that are served through Gulf hub connections. Net losses in 2021 are forecast at -13.8% of revenues (reduced from -28.9% of revenues in 2020). It will be the third smallest regional loss.
  • Latin American carriers are advantaged by having almost half (48%) of their RPKs being generated on domestic markets, in particular the large Brazilian home market. They are starting from relatively large losses in 2020 and, in some parts of the region, a slow rate of vaccination. Revenues from the growth in domestic travel are forecast to cut net losses by more than two-thirds this year—to -20.4% of revenues in 2021 from -80.1% in 2020.
  • African carriers will see slow vaccination rates limit international travel. With only 14% of the region’s RPKs generated on domestic markets this will provide little cushion. Relatively weak economic growth will also limit the extent of pent-up demand. Nonetheless, net losses are expected to fall this year, from -32% of revenues in 2020 to -24%.

– IATA-

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published its 2020 safety report on the commercial airline industry. For the first time in more than 15 years there were no Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) accidents, which have accounted for the largest share of fatalities since 2016. This positive news, a refreshing break from the pandemic narrative was well received by IATA secretary general Alexandre de Juniac who said “The lack of any such events in 2020 was a positive development. Nevertheless, based on the initial reports from the investigation into the tragic loss of Sriwijaya Air SJ 182 early in 2021, we must continue to learn and improve.”

The report goes on to highlight the following:

  • The total number of accidents decreased from 52 in 2019 to 38 in 2020.
  • The total number of fatal accidents decreased from 8 in 2019 to 5 in 2020.
  • The all accident rate was 1.71 accidents per million flights. This is higher than the 5-year (2016-2020) average rate which is 1.38 accidents per million flights.
  • IATA member airlines’ accident rate was 0.83 per million flights, which was an improvement over the 5-year average rate of 0.96.
  • Total flight operations reduced by 53% to 22 million in 2020.
  • Fatality risk remained unchanged compared to the five-year average at 0.13.

With a fatality risk of 0.13 for air travel, on average, a person would have to travel by air every day for 461 years before experiencing an accident with at least one fatality. On average, a person would have to travel every day for 20,932 years to experience a 100% fatal accident.

“Flying is safe, although the industry did take a step back on performance in 2020. The severe reduction in flight numbers magnified the impact of each accident when we calculate rates. But numbers don’t lie, and we will not allow this to become a trend. We will have even sharper focus on safety during this period of reduced operations and as flight schedules are rebuilt when the world reopens,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Africa’s safety performance

The global average Jet hull loss rate rose slightly in 2021 compared to the five-year average from 2016 to 2020. Africa was one of the regions which showed improvement, recording no jet hull loss in this period recorded on average per 1 million departures

Accidents involving turboprop aircraft represented 29% of all accidents and 40% of fatal accidents in 2020. Africa unfortunately experienced a decline despite a pandemic led slowdown with turboprop hull losses rising from 4.93 in the 2016-2020 five year period to 13.02 in 2020 alone per 1 million departures

Airlines based in sub-Saharan Africa experienced six accidents last year, two of which were fatal, both involving turboprop aircraft. This is the same number of fatal accidents that occurred in 2019, nevertheless the fatality risk increased owing to the fact that there were fewer flights last year

The focus in Africa continues to be on accelerating the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS). At year-end 2020, some 28 African countries (61% of the total) had at least 60% SARPS implementation, unchanged from 2019. “While we recognize the extraordinary challenges in 2020 that touched on all aspects of aviation, we hope that we will see additional movement in this number as the pandemic recedes,” said de Juniac

IATA also continues to work closely with all key stakeholders in the region. IATA and African Airlines Association (AFRAA) joined forces with the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) on a three-year safety project to provide technical support to the African air operators of states party to the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) to ensure they achieve and maintain global aviation safety standards.

IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)

The all accident rate for airlines on the IOSA registry was nearly three times better than that of non-IOSA airlines for 2020 (1.20 vs. 3.29). The 2016-2020 average of IOSA airlines versus non-IOSA airlines was more than twice as good (0.99 vs. 2.32). All IATA member airlines are required to maintain their IOSA registration. There are currently 438 airlines on the IOSA Registry of which 142 are non-IATA Members.

Download the 2020 Safety Report

– IATA –

Rolls-Royce has announced that it has officially started building the world’s largest aero-engine, UltraFan®, which will help redefine sustainable air travel for decades to come.

The demonstrator engine, which has a fan diameter of 140 inches, will be completed by the end of the year.

The engine is the basis for a potential new family of UltraFan engines able to power both narrowbody and widebody aircraft and deliver a 25% fuel efficiency improvement compared with the first generation of Trent engine.

That performance improvement is crucial to achieving aviation sustainability. Gas turbines will continue to be the bedrock of long-haul aviation for many years, and UltraFan’s efficiency will help improve the economics of an industry transition to more sustainable fuels, which are likely to be more expensive in the short-term than traditional jet fuel. The first test run of the engine will be conducted on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Significant investment has been made to develop the UltraFan demonstrator and associated technologies by Rolls-Royce and a variety of funding agencies, including the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK (United Kingdom), LuFo (Germany) and Clean Sky Joint Undertaking (European Union).

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said: “This is an exciting moment for all of us at Rolls-Royce. Our first engine demonstrator, UF001, is now coming together and I’m really looking forward to seeing it built and ready for test. It is arriving at a time when the world is seeking ever more sustainable ways to travel in a post-COVID 19 world, and it makes me and all our team very proud to know we are part of the solution.

“I am delighted that the UK and German governments have supported us in making these significant ground-breaking technology investments. The Aerospace Technology Institute and LuFo programmes, as well as the EU’s Clean Sky, have all helped bring us a step closer to realising the enormous environmental and economic benefits of UltraFan.”

According to Rolls-Royce,  key parts are already coming together for delivery to their facility in Derby. Work is underway on UltraFan’s carbon titanium fan system in Bristol, UK, and its 50MW Power Gearbox, which is powerful enough to run 500 family cars, in Dahlewitz, Germany.

UltraFan is part of Rolls-Royce’s Intelligent Engine vision – for example each fan blade has a digital twin which stores real-life test data, allowing engineers to predict in-service performance. When on test at Rolls-Royce’s new £90m Testbed 80 facility, data can be taken from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second. Data that helps us understand our engines and further improve them.

Key engineering features of the engine include:

  • A new, proven, Advance 3 core architecture, combined with our ALECSys lean burn combustion system, to deliver maximum fuel burn efficiency and low emissions.
  • Carbon titanium fan blades and a composite casing that reduce weight by up to 1,500lb per aircraft.
  • Advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components that operate more effectively in high pressure turbine temperatures.
  • A geared design that delivers efficient power for the high-thrust, high bypass ratio engines of the future.

Rolls-Royce is a pre-eminent manufacturer of aero-engines and has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces and navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.

Rolls-Royce

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