The busiest air travel routes in South Africa – before and after Covid

 ·7 Jun 2021

The latest 2020 Africa air transport report from the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) shows how air routes in South Africa and its neighbouring nations were decimated during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

While air travel is still largely restricted in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel – particularly for business – has slowly normalised. However, the damage caused by the pandemic has made its mark as recorded by the AFRAA.

Financially, 2020 was an exceptionally difficult year in history, it said, with estimated passenger revenue lost by African airlines in 2020 at $10.21 billion.

The number of scheduled passengers carried by African airlines dropped from 95 million in 2019 to 34.7 million in 2020, representing a year-on-year decline of 63.7%. The reduction in traffic continued until June, before reversing with the gradual opening of borders.

In Southern Africa, the traffic drop related to Covid reached 63.6% compared to 2019. The few flights that were taking place, were happening domestically, the AFRAA said.

The domestic market in Southern Africa remained dominant, increasing from 66% of all traffic before the Covid outbreak, to 77% in the last quarter of 2020. On the other end, intra-African traffic reduced, as well as traffic outside the continent.

South Africa’s domestic routes are the strongest on the continent. In 2019, eight of the 10 busiest domestic routes in Africa were in South Africa. However, this dropped to only six of the 10 busiest routes in 2020.

The two routes that fell away were the Cape Town – Lanseria and Lanseria – Durban routes, largely due to Lanseria airport only resuming operations at the end of the year.

The Cape Town – Joburg route is the busiest route on the continent. The route saw close to four million passengers in 2019, – but after the Covid crisis, this route dropped to around 1.75 million in 2020.

The busiest routes in South Africa in 2020 were:

  1. Cape Town – Johannesburg
  2. Durban – Johannesburg
  3. Cape Town – Durban
  4. Johannesburg – Port Elizabeth
  5. Johannesburg – George
  6. East London – Johannesburg

A similar trend was seen with intra-Africa travel during the course of the year.

In 2019, three intra-Africa routes from South Africa were recorded as some of the busiest, with the Harare – Johannesburg route being the most travelled. Over 400,000 people took this flight in 2019 – but in 2020 this dropped to approximately 150,000.

While three South African routes were still listed, the traveller numbers were significantly truncated in 2020.

2019 2020
Harare – Johannesburg Harare Johannesburg
Johannesburg – Mauritius Johannesburg – Bulawayo
Johannesburg – Windhoek Gaborone – Johannesburg


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