Saturday, July 7, 2012

► GHANA: FastJet aims for October launch with five A319s.

FastjetRubicon Diversified Investments PLC, parent company of soon-to-be TransAfrican LCC FastJet, has announced that the Airbus A319 has been selected for the airline's fleet with 5 expected to be leased for the first six months of operations, and 15 to be added within a year of launching, which is scheduled for October of this year.

In June, Rubicon announced  the successful completion of its deal with Lonrho Aviation and its airline Fly540, providing the merged group with existing aviation platforms and therefore easier access to already established markets, in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola. 

Said Rubicon Chief Executive Ed Winter: 
"The decision to launch FastJet with the Airbus A319 enables us to expand rapidly with each aircraft potentially carrying around 250,000 passengers a year.  Rubicon expects passenger capacity to double from current levels within six months of the introduction of the A319 fleet.
"We plan to add at least five leased Airbus A319 aircraft to the fleet within six months of launch and up to 15 within a year."

FastJet A319 livery
FastJet A319 rendering.
Fleet uniformity is an important concept in the LCC model, as commonality of type allows for lower maintenance costs (as opposed to a fleet consisting of various types and makes of aircraft) thereby translating into lower fares. 

As per the original deal, fleet maintenance is to be carried out in Europe with a "major European MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) company" said to have won that particular contract.

No clues as yet have been given as to which destinations will be served first, as FastJet is still negotiating with various African governments over incentives and reduced passenger taxes; issues that play a big part in determining where FastJet plays its first card.

► CAMEROON: Camair-Co signs $115million deal for three MA-60s.

Cameroonian carrier Camair-Co (QC) on Wednesday 4 July signed a deal worth CFA61billion (USD$115million) for three Xian MA-60 turboprop aircraft with the China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) that will see the first one delivered in September. In addition, AVIC will also provide spare parts and training.

What is noteworthy however, is that the Cameroonian Government will only pay for two whilst the third aircraft will come 'free' as part of a lulzy 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' deal that seems to be popular in Africa at the moment. With this latest acquisition of the Chinese aircraft, Camair-Co will join Air Zimbabwe, Air Burundi, Air Congo International, Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (LAC) and a host of African air forces that use the type.

Camair-Co B767
Camair-Co B767 in Douala, Cameroon. (Camair)

Despite a tough first year in the air, Camair-Co aims to become profitable by 2014, although it will require considerably greater size and scale before that target becomes tangible. Presently, Camair-Co's fleet consists of 3 aircraft: a Boeing 767-300 and two B737-700s (leased from the Aviation Capital Group) whilst its route network stretches from Cameroon to Chad, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Benin, Equatorial Guinea and France with flights to Nigeria and Congo (Kinshasa) to be added imminently.

► ZIMBABWE: Emirates to split Lusaka & Harare; introduces 5x weekly direct cargo flights to Harare.

Dubai megacarrier Emirates (EK) is to split its current Dubai - Lusaka (Zambia) - Harare (Zimbabwe) route into two separate routes "in the near future" following very strong figures in both passenger and cargo volumes moved since the route's inauguration in February of this year.

Friday, July 6, 2012

● GHANA: Government considers selling off 4 major airports.

Press reports out of Ghana claim that the Ghanaian Ministry of Transport is considering selling off four major airports around the country in a bid to privatize the country's infrastructure though whether it is seeking to completely offload the assets to the private sector or looking for a public/private partnership is yet to be confirmed.

"One of such documents dated May 16, 2012 and signed by the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Enoch Cobbinah stated that `the Transport Ministry has endorsed and confirmed to the Finance Ministry the plan to undertake through Public Private Partnership procurement and rehabilitation, expansion and upgrade of the airports.'
The document clearly indicates that at least there has been a move by government to get assistance from private partners for the airports."

The airports in question are: Accra's Kotoka International Airport, Tamale, Kumasi and Takoradi Airports all of which fall under the the authority of the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), a government run parastatal.

Kotoka International Airport
Accra Kotoka International Airport (g2g)
Part of the necessity for privatization has come from Ghana's strong economic growth in recent years which has seen a significant increase in air transport usage with airlines such as Starbow Airlines,  CTK – CiTylinK, Fly540 and soon-to-be African super LCC FastJet fuelling the boom. Obviously, this has led and will lead to the urgent need to improve and expand existing aviation facilities in the country if it is to remain an attractive destination for start up airlines. In recent years, Ghana's principle gateway, Accra's Kotoka International Airport has seen some improvements and upgrades done to its infrastructure, though there is doubt that these have been enough to sustain the airport, whose transit figures have lept 400% since 2010.

► SOUTH AFRICA: Lufthansa drops Frankfurt for Munich to Cape Town following curfew ruling.

Following on from April's landmark ruling by a federal court in Leipzig, Germany to ban flights at Frankfurt between 11pm and 5am in response to complaints about the noise from residents, so German carrier Lufthansa (LH) has been forced to switch its Cape Town, South Africa service from Frankfurt to Munich effective 28 October 2012.

Lufthansa Boeing 747
Lufthansa Boeing 747 at Cape Town (Jacobus Saayman)

Lufthansa: Munich, Germany - Cape Town, South Africa
Effective 28 October 2012
  • LH574 MUC2200 – 1035+1CPT 343 x13
  • LH575 CPT1900 – 0535+1MUC 343 x24

► TUNISIA: Syphax Airlines announces Summer schedule changes; outlines new routes.

Newly founded Tunisian carrier Syphax Airlines (FS) has announced changes to its Summer timetable effective 5 July 2012.

Founded in 2011 and based in the coastal city of Sfax by businessman Mohamed Frikha, Syphax Airlines is a scheduled airline serving destinations in the Mediterranean with plans to increase its presence in both the Magreb region of Africa and Europe in the near future, amongst which will see Nice and Lyon in France being connected with Sfax, Tunisia a whilst Casablanca - Tunisia service is also in the pipeline.

Syphax Airlines Routes
Syphax Airlines Route Map

● Syphax Airlines Summer 2012 Timetable ●

Djerba, Tunisia – Paris CDG, France 
2x weekly service operating since 18JUN12
  • FS110 DJE1510 – 1900CDG 319 14
  • FS111 CDG1225 – 1410DJE 319 14
Sfax, Tunisia – Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen, Turkey
Operational days moving from Day 47 to Day 26 (SFA departure)
  • FS212 SFA1635 – 2055SAW 319 26
  • FS213 SAW2155 – 2220SFA 319 26
Sfax, Tunisia – Marseille, France
Service operates twice weekly instead of planned 3x weekly
  • FS210 SFA0715 – 1000MRS 319 25
  • FS211 MRS1045 – 1125SFA 319 25

Sfax, Tunisia – Paris CDG, France
Service operates 5x weekly instead of planned daily
  • FS100 SFA0745 – 1125CDG 319 x267
  • FS100 SFA1030 – 1410CDG 319 7
  • FS101 CDG2000 – 2135SFA 319 14
  • FS101 CDG2030 – 2205SFA 319 35
  • FS101 CDG2215 – 2350SFA 319 7

Sfax, Tunisia – Tripoli, Libya
3x weekly service entered operation since early-June 2012
  • FS250 SFA2250 – 0025+1TIP 319 135
  • FS251 TIP0110 – 0050SFA 319 246
Tunis, Tunisia – Paris CDG, France
Service operates 3x weekly instead of planned daily
  • FS104 TUN1555 – 1930CDG 319 35
  • FS104 TUN1740 – 2115CDG 319 7
  • FS105 CDG1225 – 1355TUN 319 35
  • FS105 CDG1510 – 1640TUN 319 7

Routes to be launched in the near future:
  • Sfax, Tunisia – Lyon, France: 3x weekly (previously due to start from 7 May 2012)
  • Sfax, Tunisia – Nice, France: 2x weekly (previously due to start from 10 May 2012)
  • Sfax – Tunis – Casablanca, Morocco: 2x weekly (previously due to start from 22 May 2012)
  • Tunis – Lyon 3x weekly (previously due to start 7 May 2012)
Read More Here [Airline Route]

Presently, Syphax Airlines' fleet consists of two Airbus A319s.

► CONGO (KINSHASA): Korongo boosts frequencies/capacity to Kinshasa & Johannesburg.

Korongo Airlines
Lubumbashi-based Congolese carrier Korongo Airlines (ZC) is to increase both capacity and frequency on its routes to Johannesburg, South Africa and Kinshasa, DRC with effect from 1 September 2012.

Korongo 737
Korongo Airlines Boeing 737-300 (Pixstel)
Korongo Airlines: Lubumbashi, DRC – Johannesburg, South Africa
-Frequency increases from 2x to 4x weekly
  • ZC123 FBM0730 – 0945JNB 733 4
  • ZC123 FBM1510 – 1730JNB 733 137
  • ZC124 JNB1130 – 1350FBM 733 5
  • ZC124 JNB1845 – 2105FBM 733 13
  • ZC124 JNB1850 – 2110FBM 733 7
Korongo Airlines: Lubumbashi, DRC – Kinshasa, DRC
-All flights to operate with Boeing 737-300 instead of 3x weekly B737/Bae146.
  • ZC101 FBM0730 – 0850FIH 733 137
  • ZC105 FBM1655 – 1845FIH 733 256
  • ZC102 FIH1020 – 1340FBM 733 137
  • ZC106 FIH1945 – 2305FBM 733 256

Korongo Airlines started operations in April 2012 and is a joint-venture between Brussels Airlines and the Belgian multinational Groupe George Forrest International, with full support from Brussels Airlines' parent company Lufthansa.

Since its inception, Korongo has attempted to carve out a niche for itself in the lucrative, albeit accident and bureaucracy infested quagmire that is the Congolese aviation market. In the past, many foreign based airlines have failed where Korongo is attempting to succeed, the most recent casualty of which was South African Express' Congo subsidiary, Congo Express.

► BURUNDI: Air Burundi gets its first MA-60.

Air Burundi logoBurundian state carrier, Air Burundi (8Y), has taken delivery of the first of two Chinese Xian MA-60 aircraft both of which will form the foundation for the airline's fleet renewal programme that is being jointly sponsored by the Burundian and Chinese governments.

► NIGERIA: Air Nigeria future in doubt as GECAS repos its 737s.

Air NigeriaGlobal aircraft lessors General Electric Capital Aviation Services, better known in the aviation industry as GECAS, have dealt yet another blow to ailing Nigerian carrier, Air Nigeria (VK) by repossessing the four Boeing 737-300s (5N-VNC, 5N-VND, 5N-VNE and 5N-VNJ) it leased to the airline, over the latter's inability to settle its monthly financial obligations.

In a statement on its website (which has now been offline for over 2 days), Air Nigeria said:

Air Nigeria Boeing 737
Air Nigeria 737 '5N-VNJ' (Javier R)
"Subsequent to the temporary suspension of Air Nigeria’s regional and domestic flight operations by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), our lessors have been requesting to repossess some of the aircraft in our fleet and we are fully cooperating to return their aircraft. GECAS, one of our lessors, is already in the process of calling back four of their Boeing 737-300 aircraft and Air Nigeria is fully cooperating in line with the Cape Town Convention to expedite the repossession process.

Air Nigeria plans to acquire state-of-the-art aircraft to fill the reduction in capacity and is currently finalizing plans to resume normal flight operations across the regional and domestic routes as soon as possible.

We would also like to inform that the scheduled Lagos – London – Lagos flight operation is not affected by the temporary suspension directive of the NCAA and passengers are therefore encouraged to proceed with their confirmed itinerary while intending customers can make their reservations."
Read More Here [Nigerian Bulletin]

Despite Air Nigeria's claims that its international operation to London Gatwick has been unaffected, it has, however, been forced to indefinitely postpone the start of its vaunted Lagos-Johannesburg route, after it emerged that the embattled airline has been having "difficulty in honouring its agreement with EgyptAir, lessor of Air Nigeria's current A330-200; a second Airbus A330-200 needed to start Johannesburg (SU-GCJ) is still parked at Cairo."

Air Nigeria has persistently denied rumours of financial irregularities and difficulties at the airline, though recent events in the last month or so have not done anything to quell rampant speculation that the carrier is about to tank: a run-in with the Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service over unpaid back taxes, and a suspension of regional and domestic services by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority over safety concerns following a major strike by Air Nigeria pilots and engineers over those very concerns and others.

So, how much longer is Jimoh Ibrahim's venture going to last with all this turmoil and uncertainty? Or will we be forced to write an obituary in the weeks (or days) to come..

Friday, June 22, 2012

► SOUTH AFRICA: Emirates again postpones A380's return to Johannesburg over wing crack concerns.

[UPDATE 30 AUGUST 2012] Emirates (EK), the Dubai based megacarrier, reports that repairs to the wings of its fleet of Airbus A380s is likely to cost at least USD$100million and will have far reaching consequences on its operations in the months to come.

Amongst the routes affected include Dubai - Johannesburg, South Africa, originally scheduled to have its A380 service restarted from 1 October onwards, but due to the aforementioned problems, will now only receive them from 1 December 2012.

Emirates A380
Emirates Airbus A380 (Emirates)
Emirates: Dubai, UAE - Johannesburg, South Africa

  • EK761 DXB0440 – 1050JNB 77W D
  • EK763 DXB1015 – 1625JNB 77W D
  • EK765 DXB1440 – 2050JNB 77W D

  • EK762 JNB1400 – 0010+1DXB 77W D
  • EK764 JNB1915 – 0515+1DXB 77W D
  • EK766 JNB2220 – 0820+1DXB 77W D
Read More Here [Airline Route]

The cracks issue, discovered earlier this year, resulted from the use of a material known as '7449' that was used in A380 wing rib feet construction. The European Aviation Safety Agency issued an airworthiness directive, extended to all in-service A380s, ordering mandatory inspections of the wing ribs.

►[UPDATE 30 AUGUST 2012] See this post: ► SOUTH AFRICA: Emirates cancels intended A380 service return to Johannesburg.

► NIGERIA: FirstNation flights suspended 'til July; Air Nigeria grounded by NCAA again.

first nation logoThe local civil aviation scene in Nigeria continues to undergo a severe shake up as a consequence of the  Dana Air Flight 9J-997 tragedy.

► ZIMBABWE: Air Zimbabwe given 90 day IATA reprieve as CAAZ hypocrisy stifles newcomers.

Air ZimbabweFollowing our report this week on Air Zimbabwe's pending suspension from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for failing to comply with the Association's stringent Operational Safety Audits (IOSA), so IATA has issued a press statement to the effect that Air Zimbabwe has 90 days to comply with the IOSA criteria or risk losing its membership of the Association.

From an outside perspective, it seems like a fairly straight-forward affair - spruce up the MA60s and ageing Boeing 767s & 737s and invite IATA in. Yadayadayada, certificate issued, and problem solved.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that, especially not with quasi-bankrupt Zimbabwean parastatals who may, or may not be operating a fleet of rented Airbus A320s in the hopes of eluding creditors.

Harare Airport, Zimbabwe
A common sight at Harare Airport - nothing. (Bill Whaley)

According to the Zimbabwean Government, yes there is.

What hypocrisy!

And straight, too, from the horse's mouth. 

Air Zimbabwe lacks a current IATA IOSA Audit certificate, yet is allowed to operate; two local indigenous airline's capable of doing the job but are held back because of Government protectionism for an airline that practically does not exist, and that no one seems interesting in flying on, or investing in.

A tragedy indeed.

► NAMIBIA: Air Namibia to get A330s; aims to become profitable by 2016.

Air NamibiaNamibian national carrier Air Namibia (SW) is "to soon get rid of" its ageing Airbus A340s and replace them with newer Airbus A330s in an effort to modernize and thus bring the quality and standards of the airline up to a globally competitive level - along the lines of Dubai-based mega-carrier, Emirates.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

► GUINEA: Air Guinée to be resurrected?

Air Guinée

Air Guinée Route Network
Air Guinée's Route Network pre 2002 (Winne)

Reports suggest that Chinese aircraft manufacturers China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) are discussing a possible joint venture with the Guineans, following the collapse of another joint venture in 2009  - Air Guinée International - which was to be 85% owned by Hong Kong-based China International Fund (of Sonangol Angola fame). However, due to the unstable political climate in Conakry following the Coup d'etat of 2008, the deal was never fully implemented.

Air Guinée International Airbus
Air Guinée International A320 (Romain Salerno)

Since then, Guinea has been left with no national carrier, relying instead on other regional carriers as well as Air France for air routes into and out of the country.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

► SUDAN: Tarco Air leases Boeing 737 from Gambia's Aeolus Air.

Tarco Air logoSudanese domestic-carrier Tarco Air (TRQ) has signed a lease with Gambian ACMI Aeolus Air for a Boeing 737 as the airline seeks to increase its share of the booming Sudanese aviation pie, by starting regional and international operations.

► MOZAMBIQUE: Qatar Airways to fly to Maputo from October.

Qatar Airways
In another positive development for Mozambique's aviation industry following last week's announcement by TAP Air Portugal (TP) that it would increase frequencies between Lisbon and Maputo, Qatar Airways (QR) is to start flights between Doha, Qatar and Maputo, Mozambique effective 31 October 2012.

The flights will operate as Doha - Johannesburg - Maputo and will be flown 3x weekly with a Boeing 777-300ER.

Qatar Airways B777 at Johannesburg
Qatar Airways B777 at Johannesburg (Daniel Fretwell)
Qatar Airways: Doha, Qatar - Johannesburg, South Africa - Maputo, Mozambique
-Effective 31 October 2012
  • QR584 DOH0105 – 0825JNB0935 – 1040MPM 77W 357
  • QR585 MPM1210 – 1315JNB1425 – 2325DOH 77W 357

Recently, Qatar Airways started an aggressive expansion into Africa, adding Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Mombasa to its network, along with increasing its flights to Cairo and Algiers. Rumours are also afoot for potential Harare, Zimbabwe and Kinshasa, DRC services in 2013.

► ZIMBABWE: Air Zimbabwe suspended from IATA - again.

Air ZimbabweThe International Air Transport Association, IATA, has suspended ailing Zimbabwean airline Air Zimbabwe from its registry following Air Zimbabwe's failure to renew its registration with IATA's Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), a fundamental requirement of IATA membership.

Part of the letter from Quality and IOSA Project Coordinator, Catalin Cotrut, IATA's director for Global to Air Zimbabwe's Edmund Makona, Air Zimbabwe's Lead Auditor, read:

"Please be advised that tomorrow, June 14, 2012, Air Zimbabwe will be removed from the IOSA registry as the operator failed to renew its registration before the expiry date."

So what exactly is this IOSA, and what does it entail?

According to IATA's website
Air Zimbabwe 737
Air Zimbabwe in better days (Savvas Garozis)
"IOSA provides a standardised audit programme for cost-effectiveness and safety based on internationally-recognised standards and a structured system for the sharing of audits. IOSA audits are conducted by a select group of experienced Audit Organisations that have each undergone a rigorous and consistent IATA accreditation process. IATA Member Airlines are committed to being audited to IOSA standards."

The consequences of the suspension however, are unclear, seeing as Air Zimbabwe's operational mandate is at present, also unclear. Rumours and unconfirmed press reports claim the airline is still flying domestic Zimbabwean routes, albeit using leased aircraft, though these reports are still to be corroborated. If that is the case, then an IATA suspension may not necessarily hurt the airline internationally, though the damage to its already shoddy image, will have been done.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

► NIGERIA: Air Nigeria gets a nasty visit from Mr Tax Man.

Air NigeriaIn the ongoing saga that is Air Nigeria (VK) - having first been grounded by a strike, then a public slinging match with an ex manager over air safety and financial indebtedness, then by an investigation into its airworthiness - has now had its Managing Director, Kinfe Kahssay, arrested over failure by the airline to remit USD$31.4million (NgN4,87billion) in taxes to the Federal Internal Revenue Services (FIRS), Nigeria's tax man.

An FIRS statement read:
Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) Nigeria"The arrest is aimed at recovering arrears of taxes accruing to government from Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT). The enforcement is part of a bigger move to recover the N170. I Billion (N170'132'089'411.46) outstanding taxes owed to government by public and private organisations as well as ensure that all taxpayers are captured in the tax net."

Armed police raided Air Nigeria's offices on Monday morning and took Kahssay away for interrogation, where, it is alleged he "agreed that Air Nigeria had tax liabilities but pleaded for more time to clear the bills."

However, Air Nigeria in a press release on its website moved to distance itself from the debacle claiming that the taxes in question, in actuality, dated back to the day's of Richard Branson's Virgin Nigeria Airlines and were still to be settled with the Nigerian Government and questioned as to why the FIRS had "spent the past 8 years doing nothing".
"The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) stormed Air Nigeria office on Monday, 18 June 2012, with mobile policemen armed with guns to demand for past taxes allegedly owed during the period when Mr. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic was running Virgin Nigeria, now Air Nigeria. These taxes have been in dispute and needed to be reconciled and agreed upon."
The airline then goes on to allege that the last 2 incidents (see the opening paragraph) have been part of a greater conspiracy to see the airline fail.
"We suspect that one other line of action will be coming in the coming week to further attempt to damage us in the public eye; but we assure the instigator of such uncivilized approach that Air Nigeria will not compromise its corporate values and development strategy. "
Read More Here [Air Nigeria Press Release] 

So, if Air Nigeria's prophecies are true, what will happen next? Stay tuned for another thrilling episode...

► SOUTH AFRICA: SAA pushes further into Africa with Abidjan & Brazzaville.

SAA logoSouth African Airways (SA) will, from 17 August 2012, resume its suspended Johannesburg, South Africa - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire service that it last plied 3 years ago. The flight will be operated by an Airbus A330-200 twice a week.

Monday, June 18, 2012

► TANZANIA: Precision Air adds Zanzibar to Dar - Joburg route.

Precision Air Tanzanian airline Precision Air (PW) will, with effect from 1 July 2012, switch its Dar es Salaam - Johannesburg, South Africa flights to daytime flights. Presently, the Boeing 737-300 operated route departs Dar es Salaam in the late afternoon on the outbound leg,, whilst the return leg operates in the late evening.