Is the African market finally ready to fulfil its full potential? Will a new more open approach to air connectivity finally open the door to better intra-African connectivity? These are massive questions for a market that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts will see the strongest growth over the next 20 years and will be home to some of the fastest growing individual country markets in terms of passenger demand.
Our regular round-up delivers some of the latest key aviation and travel news stories from across Africa.
Nigerian airlines disadvantaged by high charges in central and west Africa
Air Peace chairman and CEO Allen Onyema said Nigerian airlines are at a competitive disadvantage on routes to destinations in central and west Africa due to the relatively high charges imposed on Nigerian carriers by other countries. He commented: “Unless government intervenes, we may leave the routes to these foreign airlines. This is because if you continue operating the West and Central routes, it will affect your revenue base on the domestic scene and you will crumble. That is why most Nigerian airlines could not succeed on those destinations”.
Tunisair set to cut some 1200 positions in initial restructuring plan
Tunisair CEO Ilyes Mnakbi says restructuring of the airline in its initial phase will include retiring approximately 1200 workforce positions. “Some 900 employees, most of whom comprise less qualified baggage handlers, were integrated into the company soon after the revolution, which brought about overstaffing issues”, Mr Mnakbi commented. He confirmed the carrier’s restructuring plan has been submitted to Tunisia’s Ministry of Transport for evaluation and approval. The airline has debts of around TND1.2 billion (USD399.1 million), with around half of that owed to the Office of Civil Aviation and Airports (Tunisia). Mr Mnakbi said repayments will come about primarily through a recapitalisation of Tunisair.
Kenya Airways is ‘on the right track’ according to its CEO
Kenya Airways Group MD and CEO Sebastian Mikosz says efforts to improve the airline’s performance “will be a long and challenging process”, but adds: “We are optimistic that we are on the right track” In an interview with the Daily Nation, he stated: “Our overall aim is to return to a sustainably positive financial position where we can meet shareholder expectations”. Mr Mikosz said the carrier’s profitability was affected by “a drastic change in market conditions” and noted: “The airline environment has become more competitive and we therefore need to adapt to remain relevant”. Mr Mikosz is focused on “improving our equity and balance sheet by employing a different operating model”. He said measures include “development of ancillary revenue streams, improving the efficiency of our aircraft deployment, opening new routes and developing a maintenance, repair and overhaul strategy”. Mr Mikosz added: “At the moment our focus is on returning us to profitability through reviewing our operating model to better compete in the market, efficiently deploying our assets, building our MRO capacity, and enhancing our customer experience alongside other revenue generating initiatives”.
Majority of SAATM signatories have now implemented the liberalisation strategy
African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) secretary general Tefera Mekonnen said the majority of the 28 countries to have joined the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) programme have now implemented the provisions of the agreement. He commented: “Most of them, maybe 22 of them, have implemented the concrete measures”. AFCAC plans to work towards greater awareness and implementation of SAATM from 2Q2019, with the aim to reach 40 signatory countries by 2020.
Nigeria Air ‘will be delivered’, says aviation minister
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika said the Nigeria Air project “will be delivered” before the end of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was reelected in Feb-2019. Mr Sirika said Nigeria Air “is not forgotten by the government”, adding: “It will continue and we are doing everything we can to deliver it”. He also stated: “We had to suspend the earlier plans for the national carrier for strategic reasons… Provisions have to be made to continue to fund activities of advisers and so on, to ensure that it is delivered”. Mr Sirika said viability funding for the proposed airline is “being addressed” and a full business case is in “the implementation stage”.
Direct Namibia-Kenya air services are moving closer
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob says he hopes direct services can be established between Namibia and Kenya, following recent bilateral trade negotiations between the countries. Air Namibia and Kenya Airways already have a codeshare relationship, covering Air Namibia’s services from Windhoek to Johannesburg and Lusaka, as well as Kenya Airways services from Johannesburg and Lusaka to Nairobi. Mr Geingob said he hopes for “direct flights from Nairobi to Windhoek and then we can do a lot more in trade and investment”.
Kenya and China expand bilateral air services agreement
China’s aviation regulator CAAC says China and Kenya have agreed to expand their bilateral air services agreement. Air travel between the two countries grew 7.8% year-on-year to 130,000 passengers in 2018. China Southern Airlines currently operates twice weekly Guangzhou-Nairobi service with plans to increase frequency to four times weekly in 2H2019. Kenya Airways operates daily Nairobi-Bangkok-Guangzhou service. The airlines also codeshare on several routes. CAAC noted Kenya is of “great significance for Chinese airlines to expand the African air transport market”.
Air Peace set to commence international operations in Apr-2019
Air Peace chairman and CEO Allen Onyema said the airline hopes to commence international operations in Apr-2019. Its initial destinations is expected to be either Sharjah and Dubai. Mr Onyema confirmed the airline completed demonstration flights to Dakar, Johannesburg and Sharjah for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as part of the certification process for international operations.
- Mozambique and China have signed a new air transport agreement and a MoU on air traffic rights arrangements, providing the legal framework for future nonstop air services between the two countries.
- Air Djibouti has held meetings with Saudia and flynas to discuss potential cooperation, including interline and codeshare arrangements.
- Nigeria’s Minister of State Aviation Hadi Sirika advocated for the nation’s national assembly to approve NGN461.8 million (USD1.3 million) in funding for additional work on new airport terminal projects ongoing within the country. These funds would be in addition to an existing NGN500 million (USD1.4 million) loan from China Exim Bank.
- Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority has approved 19 airlines to operate scheduled international services to the country in summer 2019. New airlines to operate scheduled services to Cameroon include Tchadia Airlines and Solenta Aviation Gabon.
CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African Domestic Seats (as at 25-Mar-2019)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)
- Royal Air Maroc received one new Boeing 787-9 aircraft (CN-RGX, MSN 64626), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is the second 787-9 aircraft to be delivered to the airline.
- Ethiopian Airlines received a Boeing 737-800F (ET-AWC, MSN 32613), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft was previously in service with China Southern Airlines and was recently converted to freighter configuration.
- Air Peace received one Boeing 777-300 (5N-BWI, MSN 33375) on 20-Mar-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft was previously in service with Singapore Airlines.
- Camair-Co has reportedly grounded its two Xian MA-60 aircraft after one of the aircraft was involved in a tail strike incident on 10-Mar-2019. The Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority reportedly directed the airline to cease operating the aircraft pending verification of their airworthiness.
- Rahila Air received one A320-200 aircraft (MSN 1422) leased from Via Airways (aviator.aero, 20-Mar-2019. This is the carrier’s second A320, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.
CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African International Seats (as at 25-Mar-2019)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)
- SA Express plans to increase Johannesburg-Lubumbashi frequency from six to seven times weekly, effective 30-Mar-2019. The airline operates the service with 70 seat Bombardier CRJ700 equipment.
- Italy’s civil aviation authority ENAC has approved Ryanair‘s application to operate air services between Italy and Algeria. The carrier plans to launch four times weekly Milan Bergamo-Algiers service in summer 2019.
- RwandAir plans to commence four times weekly Kigali-Mumbai-Guangzhou service with A330-200 equipment on 18-Jun-2019, as an extension of existing Kigali-Mumbai service.
- Emirates Airline plans to increase Dubai-Durban frequency from daily to 11 times weekly, effective 14-Jun-2019 to 04-Aug-2019. The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.
- Turkish Airlines plans to launch four times weekly Istanbul-Port Harcourt service from 24-Jun-2019. The service is scheduled to operate until 27-Oct-2019.