The coronavirus pandemic has changed not just the way people travel, but also the way they spend money. For Kenya’s aviation industry, the health crisis went to town on the number of aircraft purchase by rich individuals, aviation firms, and the government.
The demand for commercial flights definitely came to an all-time low last year when lockdowns and travel restrictions were instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19. Private individuals then saw less need to purchase these airborne vehicles, thanks to the financial pinch of the novel virus.
According to data from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), only 32 new aircrafts were registered in 2020, compared to 63 in 2019. As a result of this deficit, total number of planes in the East African country stands at 1,525. However, this figure does not include aircrafts owned by the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces.
In 2019, a total of 13 aircrafts were bought and registered with the KCAA by private and wealthy Kenyans, but that number crashed to just 2 last year.
47 commercial-purpose flyers were acquired in 2019, but it reduced by 36.1 percent to 30 in 2020. As for government purchased aircrafts, none was recorded last year, down from 3 in 2019.
As the coronavirus pandemic infected the Kenyan economy into its first recession in 20 years, so did it eat into the pockets of affluent individuals in the country.
According to the latest Knight Frank Wealth Report, the economic repercussions of COVID-19 saw the number of Kenyans with no less than USD 30 Mn (UNHWIs) of net worth drop from 106 in 2019 to 90 in 2020.
The pandemic also affected Kenya’s high net worth individuals (HNWIs), as the number of people with no less than USD 1 Mn reduced. According to Knight Frank, 912 Kenyans ceased to belong to this group. As of 2019, the HNWI count was at 4,235, but then dropped to 3,323 in 2020.
The aviation situation was difficult enough for 101 planes to be auctioned off last year in Kenya to clear the increasing parking charges. Kenya Airways opted to lay off half of its pilots to survive financially, but it’s unclear whether the decision carried on.
KQ (the county’s national carrier) also resorted to downsizing operations and retrenching staff to survive the unforeseen scourge. Nevertheless, the airline’s problems were only aggravated—not started—by the pandemic.
The travel slump was projected to cause African airlines USD 6 Bn in cumulative passenger revenue losses in 2020, and it’s not surprising that Kenya’s aircraft acquisition numbers are affected.
In August 2020, aviation feuds between Kenya and Tanzania led to both countries banning each other from entering each other’s airspaces to limit the spread of the COVID-19.