Original Research

Impact of COVID-19 restrictions on South African air transport and tourism indicators

Joachim Vermooten
Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management | Vol 17 | a812 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jtscm.v17i0.812 | © 2023 Joachim Vermooten | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 June 2022 | Published: 12 April 2023

About the author(s)

Joachim Vermooten, Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Economics, School of Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Air travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) impacted air travel to and from and within South Africa significantly. The duration of the pandemic was more protracted than initially expected as new variants of the pandemic (in ‘waves’) resulted in additional restrictions.

Objectives: To determine the nature of COVID-19-related air travel restrictions, their impact on annual passenger demand, the number of flights operated (supply of services), the related average passenger loads carried as well as on tourism indicators of the direct contribution of travel and tourism, the total contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment.

Method: The study identifies the number of passengers carried and flights operated and calculates the average passenger load per flight and trends. The impact on tourism indicators is based on the unit values of metrics published by the World Travel and Tourism Council for the 2019 calendar year, adapted for the reduction in passengers in the first and second years following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Results: Significant decreases in the annual number of passengers carried, flights operated (in the three geographic areas), and their impact on tourism and employment indicators were identified.

Conclusion: The decline in passengers exceeded the decrease in flights operated, which resulted in a decline in the average load of passengers carried per flight. The significance of COVID-19 restrictions on tourism indicators and employment was also calculated.

Contribution: The study identifies the impact of COVID-19 air travel restrictions on both air transport and tourism indicators for South Africa.


COVID-19; restrictions; regulations; air travel; air transport; tourism; passengers carried; flights operated; passenger load; recovery


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