Monday, September 16, 2013

► GABON: Royal Air Maroc, Libreville to resurrect Air Gabon International venture?

Royal Air Maroc RAMRoyal Air Maroc (AT) and the Government of Gabon are reportedly set to proceed with the establishment of a new Gabonese national carrier, Air Gabon International, seven years after its original proposal. The development comes after Morocco and Gabon earlier this month signed five cooperation agreements dealing mainly with customs services, country planning and people's movement.

Air Gabon 747 (Albo Bidini)
According to Xinhua, the partnership will see Royal Air Maroc (RAM) retaining a 51% stake with Libreville holding the remaining 49% but offered no further details.

The original deal with the Moroccans was signed in 2006 and was intended as a clone of RAM's other now defunct venture, Air Senegal International (V7). Service was to have included flights to Europe and Africa using a B737-200Adv and a B757-200 and a Dash-8-300. By 2009, the carrier was expected to have acquired a B767-200ER.

However,  owing to various undisclosed "differences of opinions", the project never saw the light of day and was instead replaced in 2007 by Christian Bongo's, one of then-Gabonese strongman Omar Bongo's sons, Gabon Airlines (GY), which itself collapsed in 2010.

Royal Air Maroc has long sought a strategic foothold in Central Africa to provide it with much needed feeder traffic for its Casablanca hub. RAM was originally a partner for the Brazzaville-based regional carrier Air CEMAC and had also been linked to talks with Yaoundé over a stake in Camair Co (QC).