Monday, September 9, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): Korongo boss dismisses reports of Air France/Kinshasa tie up; claims game still on.

Korongo AirlinesChristophe Allard, the managing director of Congolese operator, Korongo Airlines (ZC), has dismissed recent media reports that Kinshasa has reached a definitive agreement with Air France (AF) in which the latter will become a partner in a new Congolese national carrier due in the skies in either late 2013/early 2014.

Speaking to Belgian paper, La Libre, last week, Mr Allard claimed that nothing between Kinshasa or Air France had been signed adding that media houses reporting the development had misinterpreted the announcement. (Editor's Note: The original press release on the Congolese Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo's website has now been redacted and, as of this posting, Air France itself has yet to issue any official comment on the purported partnership with the Congolese government.)
"Negotiations are ongoing and all known candidates (Turkish Airlines (TK), Ethiopian Airlines (ET), Kenya Airways (KQ), Air France/KLM and brussels airlines (SN)) are still in contention. We are very sensitive to the trade and discussions with the Congolese authorities continue to move forward," he said.
He said that brussels airlines was in contention under the Korongo brand, in which it owns a joint 70% stake via its holding firm Airbel, and claimed that Air France's involvement in the hunt for a partner is more likely to be in "a technical advisory role."

On his airline's prospects of being chosen, Mr Allard said he was convinced "more than ever" that he could make his airline the most attractive to the Congolese authorities given that the carrier is already up and running and is the only Congo-based carrier that lives up to international standards. This in turn would save Kinshasa valuable time in setting up a company from scratch and instead allow it to focus on the carrier's long term development. 

In light of the Congo's infrastructural shortcomings, Mr Allard said air transport would remain the only realistic way of maintaining connectivity throughout the country for the foreseeable future, adding that even if Korongo (and therefore brussels airlines) wasn't chosen, there would still be enough market share for the airline to remain viable.

Korongo serves Kinshasa, Mbuji Mayi and Johannesburg out of its Lubumbashi base using a single B737-300 though Mr Allard now claims two additional B737-300s (as opposed to an additional B737-300 and a Fokker 50 mentioned previously) are to be available to the airline in early 2014.