Advantage Africa – an update on latest travel developments across the Continent

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.

Ethiopian Airlines describes FY2019 as ‘the toughest year in our history’

Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO Tewolde GebreMariam has described FY2018/19, ended Jun-2019, as “the toughest year in our history” due to a number of major challenges. These comprised the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash in Mar-2019 and subsequent 737 MAX grounding; issues with Boeing 787 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce engines, resulting in a “shortage of aircraft”; a 21% increase in jet fuel costs, resulting in higher operating costs; currency fluctuations and difficulty repatriating funds from certain African countries, including Angola, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, the Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Zimbabwe; and a decline in Ethiopian exports, in response to which the airline shifted freighters to China and Europe routes.

ACI: African passenger traffic to exceed 450 million by 2040

ACI World has forecast +4.7% compound annual growth rate in Africa from 2018 to 2023 and passenger traffic “to grow beyond 450 million by 2040,” according to director general Angela Gittens. Ms Gittens said: “Airport leaders are faced with pressure to manage performance and growth, without constantly adding infrastructure and cost, while striving for environmental sustainability and robust security”.

‘Safety and security is non negotiable’ in aviation industry

Nigeria’s Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi reported “safety and security is non negotiable” as his administration aims to make it a priority for the nation. Mr Amaechi explained this would be a key driver in growing the sector rapidly. The politician said that safety and security has become pertinent because of the myriad of security challenges globally, stating that the country is trying to be proactive to forestall such challenges. According to him, “the aviation industry in Nigeria has not been without its peculiar problems in the recent past, which includes but not limited to weak airlines and decaying infrastructure”. “The Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with relevant parastatals and agencies have drawn up short term plans that are currently being implemented of which the travelling public will take notice of the improvements,” he added.

Air Namibia targeting ‘low hanging fruits’ to improve long term sustainability

Air Namibia corporate communications manager Paul Nakawa stated the airline is exploring “all avenues that can generate money for the airline to avoid excessive reliance on the shareholder for funding”. He said: “Low hanging fruits such as the inflight magazine, rightsizing the staff component, pricing and service excellence are some of the factors that can help sustain the airline in the long run”.

News Briefs

  • Brussels Airlines confirmed plans to introduce premium economy class on services to destinations in Africa, staring with Kinshasa and Luanda in Oct-2019; Kigali, Entebbe, Bujumbura, Freetown and Monrovia from Nov-2019; then Dakar, Banjul and Conakry in Jan-2020; Douala and Yaounde in Feb-2020; and Abidjan, Ouagadougou, Cotonou, Accra and Lome from May-2020.
  • has launched a wireless inflight entertainment service with Royal Air Maroc, as part of a trial expected to last at least two months. The platform can be accessed free of charge through the Royal Air Maroc ‘Go’ IFE portal.
  • Air Afrik reportedly plans to lay off 80% of its employees in Kenya and South Sudan by Nov-2019 as part of a restructuring programme. The layoffs would reportedly include around 200 staff in Kenya. The carrier reportedly lost a USD20 million aircraft leasing contract with South Sudan’s Government and is engaged in a legal dispute with Stanbic Bank.
  • Green Africa Airways selected Navitaire’s New Skies platform as its passenger reservation system. Green Africa founder and CEO Babawande Afolabi stated: “Our partnership with Navitaire will be at the centre of our digital strategy aimed at giving customers affordable fares.”

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African Domestic Seats (as at 14-Oct-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)

Fleet Development

  • Air Mauritius is aiming to simplify its fleet down to three aircraft types, reports CEO Somas Appavou. The carrier intends to operate a single narrowbody type such as the A321neo for medium haul operations and the A330 and A350 widebodies for long haul. The airline may convert orders for two A350-900s, scheduled for delivery in 2023, to either A321neo or A330neo aircraft.
  • Air Senegal will reportedly receive a second A330-900 aircraft on 29-Oct-2019, according to local sources. The airline received its first A330-900 in Mar-2019.
  • Air Austral has been confirmed as the first A220 customer in the Indian Ocean region with a firm order for three A220-300 aircraft. The 132 seat aircraft will be delivered from late 2020 as part of the airline’s short and medium haul fleet renewal.
  • Royal Air Charters received one Embraer ERJ145 aircraft. The carrier plans to deploy the 50 seat aircraft to destinations including Kulumbila, Lusaka, Ndola and Solwezi.
  • Turkish Airlines plans to deploy A330-200 equipment on two routes to Africa in summer 2020, replacing smaller 737-800 equipment. The widebody will be used on three times weekly Istanbul-N’Djamena-Kinshasa-Istanbul services from 12-May-2020 and three of seven weekly Istanbul-Abuja frequencies, effective 10-Aug-2020.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plans to deploy A330-300 aircraft on twice weekly Amsterdam-Luanda-Windhoek service from 31-Mar-2020, replacing A330-200 aircraft.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: African International Seats (as at 14-Oct-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)

Route Update

  • Air Mauritius plans to consolidate its European operations. The airline aims to secure slots at London Gatwick for summer 2020 to enable increased overall London frequency, due to the shortage of available slots at London Heathrow.
  • Air Arabia Maroc plans to reduce the frequency of flights from Agadir to Basel Mulhouse, Birmingham, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dublin, Manchester and Munich, all of which are scheduled to be suspended during the winter 2019/2020 schedule.
  • Air Senegal plans to commence Dakar-Geneva service in 2020. The service will be the only nonstop connection between Senegal and Switzerland, according to OAG.
  • EgyptAir plans to resume Cairo-Osaka Kansai charter service, operating between 16-Dec-2019 and 06-May-2020. The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.
  • The Gambia Experience, a UK tour operator, plans to operate Manchester-Banjul scheduled charter service from 16-Dec-2019 to 27-Apr-2020. The flights will be sold as part of packaged tours, including hotel transfers and seven nights accommodation.
  • TUI Airlines Netherlands reportedly plans to commence weekly Amsterdam-Djerba service on 03-Apr-2020. The airline will operate the service with Boeing 737 aircraft.
  • Arik Air plans to resume daily Lagos-Owerri service on 21-Oct-2019. The airline stated it suspended Owerri service earlier in 2019 due to “operational exigencies”. The carrier intends to resume other suspended destinations and open new routes in the coming weeks.
  • Edelweiss Air plans to commence weekly Zurich-Agadir service on 03-Sep-2020. The airline will be the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • Air Tanzania will commence weekly Dar Es Salaam-Tabora-Mpanda service in Oct-2019 with plans to increase frequency to three times weekly, subject to demand.