Fourth Quarter Air travel quickens by 11%; Freight charges still high – ZACL

British Airways - Comair at Johannesburg's ORT before take off to Livingstones Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula the tourist capital.

ZAMBIAs air travel growth pace quickened by a quantum of 10.9% in Q4:2017 to 456,821 according to a press release by Zambia Airports Corporation Limited – ZACL dated 06 March 2018. Year on Year – YoY growth number breakdown comprised 82,524 domestic – representing 23% growth from 67,028 – and 374,297 international – representing 8.4% growth from 344,783 passengers. Key drivers of the upward trend were:

  • The return of Mahogany Air which has widened the competition playing field that has seen doubled digit growth in the domestic travel space. Mahogany caused a price disruption that suppressed travel pricing significantly through aggressive campaigns. Air travel pricing will lower further in Q4 this year following the launch of Zambia Airworks a (55%) state owned vehicle with Africa’s largest – Ethiopian airline owning (45%) stake.
  • Proflight retaliated with a higher frequency flight strategy to the copperbelt with 6.30 am flights to cater for the ‘early business birds’ client niche which has been overwhelmingly received.
  • Zambia is as a preferred venue for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions has exuded positive benefits to the domestic air travel sector.
  • Stability of the exchange rate has boosted confidence in the merchandise trading market with China and Dubai hence increased travel in the international space. Most entrepreneurs will fly to various destinations.
  • High copper pricing on the London Metal exchange – LME has seen mining productivity soar on the Copperbelt and Northwestern provinces resulting in rise in flights into the mining area.

Despite the positive drivers in Q4 of last year, disease outbreak -cholera – offset and negated potential growth momentum because international travelers shied away from Zambia for fear of infection. The impact of cholera generally lowered business pulse for Zambia as evidenced by weak January and February Purchasing Managers Index – PMI. Air travel was similarly impacted.

Paying passenger volume up 11%

ZACL paying passenger volumes rose by 11% to 161,159 compared to 145,328 a year ago in 2016. Of these, 65% were attributed to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport -KKIA which represented a 6% uptick compared to 99,398 paying passengers in Q4: 2016.

Improved general passenger movement by Airport

Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe – SMIA (Ndola) and Mfuwe International Airports -MIA performed fairly well at 20.2% and 2.5% respectively surpassing budget targets. While the two airports grew at rates of 25% and 16% respectively (YoY), Harry Mwaanga Nkhumbula International Airport -HMIA in Livingstone grew by 20% in comparison to 2016 same time when it absorbed 22,555 paying passengers. Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe – 57.7% was the best performer with Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula rallying behind at 25% followed by Mfuwe International Airport at 16%.

Flight frequency rises by 9%

Zambia recorded a 9% rise in flight volume to 13,344 compared to 12,247 same time the previous year.

Freight charges slow air cargo growth

Zambia’s freight charges still remain high and have deterred the cargo air transportation business. A marginal 3% growth was posted in the air cargo space as most clients still preferred the cheaper route of having their merchandise trucked to South Africa for onward dispatching to Europe. However the 3% increase in Q4: 2017 was an improvement from a 3% decline a year ago exactly. Zambia’s freight charges are relatively higher compared to its regional peers.

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