Monday, August 6, 2012

► EGYPT: Alexandria Airlines to get first Boeing 737-300.

Alexandria Airlines
Swiss aviation site CH-Aviation reports that Egyptian ACMI and air charter specialists Alexandria Airlines (XH) are set to receive their first Boeing 737-300 (MSN 29244) which will join their Boeing 737-500, currently wet-leased to Sudan's Marsland Aviation.

Alexandria Airlines' 737-300
Alexandria Airlines' 737-300 (Dominik Burger)
The airline was established in August 2006 as a joint venture with Jordan Aviation (suppliers of their Boeing 737-300) and initially operated charter services connecting Egypt to Europe and Jordan before briefly operating a limited number of scheduled flights from Alexandria International Airport to the Gulf and Middle East.

► ETHIOPIA: Ethiopian Airlines confirms 787 handover on August 14; to fly once off Washington - Addis flight on August 16.

Almost 3 years late, but the wait will be over soon enough as Ethiopian Airlines (ET) has officially announced that it is to take delivery of its first, and Africa's first, Boeing 787 Dreamliner at a ceremony in Seattle, Washington on Tuesday 14 August 2012.
""The fact that we are the first airline outside Japan to receive this ultra modern aircraft is an affirmation of our continuing pioneering role in African aviation. It is also a testimony of our commitment to give our passengers the best possible travel experience, with the best industry products and services." said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian. "
Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner ET-AOQ [Click to Enlarge]
ET-AOQ in Seattle recently.
After taking delivery, Ethiopian will fly its Dreamliner "ET-AOQ" to Washington D.C. the following day, where the aircraft will be on display to foreign dignitaries amongst whom will be US Senators and House Representatives as well as Ambassadors, Executives from the World Bank and IMF, members of the Ethiopian community, the media and other invited guests. 

It should be noted that since its early days with the Boeing 707 and 720, Ethiopian has maintained a very strong bond with Boeing and its financiers at the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Thereafter, Ethiopian Airlines on 16 August, will operate a one-time only Washington Dulles – Addis Ababa service on board its 787-8 aircraft, operating as a nonstop eastbound flight (13hrs 30mins) essentially the aircraft début flight.
  •  ET2501 IAD1230 – 0900+1ADD 788 16AUG12
The Dreamliner is scheduled to touchdown at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport on Thursday 16 August 2012 following which the airline will hold celebrations.

UPDATE: The Guangzhou, China inaugural route has been CANCELLED effective 6 August 2012. (For the updated schedule of Ethiopian's 787 destinations see this thread).

■ KENYA: Kenya Airways puts faith in newer aircraft and staff cuts as global oil prices continue to hit hard.

Kenya Airways
Citing "a downturn in passenger volumes, declining revenues, unstable fuel prices and an increasingly competitive environment", Kenya Airways' CEO and Managing Director, Titus Naikuni, (KQ) on Friday announced plans to reduce the Kenyan national carrier's staff overhead in a bit to streamline the airline following a 57% drop in profit from KSh3.5billion last year, to KSh1.6billion in Q1 of this year.

Naikuni stated that Kenya Airways' wage bill had more than doubled from KSh6billion in 2007 to KSh13.4billion in 2012 following a rise in the workforce size from 3'729 to 4'170 over the same period, which, with some 664 foreigners included, brings the overall tally to 4'834 employees. It was this increase that had eaten away at the airlines profitability and thus necessitated the redundancy drive which would start primarily with junior and management staff.
“Despite various initiatives that we have put in place, our cost base continues to be extremely high. This coupled with other direct operating costs, have put pressure on our contribution margin reducing our overall ability to operate profitably,” he explained.
Source [Kenya Airways]
Global Brent Crude Oil Prices 2007 - 2012
Brent Crude Prices 2007 - 2012

As part of the streamlining initiative, Kenya Airways will first offer a "Voluntary Early Retirement Package" (VERP) to staff willing to leave the organization before 31 August, after which, it will pursue a mandatory redundancy programme, should the VERP fail to attract satisfactory figures.

In recent weeks, Kenya Airways has moved to implement a number of measures designed to ensure the company's viability in both the short term, and long term - with particular reference to the airlines Project Mawingo which aims to transform the airline into a more globally competitive player by 2020. In late June, it signed a mandate with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to secure financing for Kenya Airways' fleet renewal initiative which will involve the purchase of nine (9) new Boeing 787-800s (Dreamliners) (B787s), one (1) Boeing 777-300ER (B777-300ER), and ten (10) Embraer EMB190 aircraft (E-190s). The new aircraft and their added efficiency will ensure Kenya Airways' fuel bill is kept as low as possible.

►►► ETHIOPIA: See Pics of Ethiopian's 787 ready for delivery; axes 787 on Harare and Lusaka route.

- Updated 6 August 2012. On-line aviation resource Airline Route is reporting (though these reports are uncorroborated) that Ethiopian Airlines (ET), set to receive its and Africa's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the next few weeks, has axed its planned Boeing 787 flights to Harare, Zimbabwe and Lusaka, Zambia originally slated to start on 28 October 2012.

Ethiopian's 787 ET-AOQ
Ethiopian's 787 ET-AOQ exits the paintshop (Josh Rawlin)

Ethiopian's 787 ET-AOQ
Ethiopian's 787 ET-AOQ in Seattle (Bernie Leighton)

■■ MOZAMBIQUE: (Pics) New Domestic Terminal at Maputo Airport to be ready by October.

-Updated 28 December 2012.


Construction works on Maputo Airport's new Domestic Terminal have been concluded with functionality testing to be run from August onwards. The final touches now being applied include the cooling system, electrical appliances, safety equipment, escalators and an FIDS (flight information display system).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

► PAKISTAN: PIA looking at returning to Nairobi and Johannesburg.

Pakistan International Airlines
News reports out of Pakistan state that Pakistani state-carrier Pakistani International Airlines PIA (PK) has expressed interest in returning to Africa following the renewal of their fleet with five Boeing 737-800s, two B-777-LRs and two B747-800s.

PIA's 1982 Route Network [Click to Enlarge]
PIA's 1982 Route Network with Nairobi & Dar es Salaam.
PIA last served Nairobi, Kenya from 2005 until 2006 as Karachi - Dubai - Nairobi with an Airbus A310. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was also part of PIA's Africa Network until the 90s whilst Johannesburg, South Africa would be a début station, despite having been on the cards for many years.
"New planes scheduled to be purchased included five B-737-800, two B-777-LR and two Jumbo planes. Sources claimed that Jumbo planes would be used for Hajj purpose while B-777 for long haul flights like Huston, Chicago and Los Angeles while B-737-800 for other routes.
A well informed officer of PIA seeking anonymity said that MD PIA was also keen in revamping of routes like Nairobi, Johannesburg, Glasgow and Bangkok etc."

Should the flights go ahead, PIA will face stiff opposition from UAE carrier Emirates, Qatar Airways and Kenya Airways whose collective flights and highly competitive fares forced PIA's withdrawal from the Nairobi route back in 2006.

► TANZANIA: Air Tanzania temporarily ceases operations as 737 deal with AeroVista is called off.

Air TanzaniaWhat was touted as a new beginning for beleaguered Tanzanian national carrier, Air Tanzania (TC), has now turned into a nasty ordeal with the possibility of litigation after Air Tanzania suspended its contract with Dubai-based ACMI AeroVista from whom it leased a Boeing 737-500, effectively grounding the carrier.

► LIBYA: Optimistic Afriqiyah orders more A330s, but post-Gaddafi where to?

AfriqiyahFollowing the recent Farnborough Airshow in the United Kingdom, Libyan carrier Afriqiyah (8U), has announced plans to convert a previous order of 3 Airbus A321s into an order for A330s in a sign that the carrier is slowly but surely returning to the international scene.

Friday, August 3, 2012

■ CAMEROON: Ex-minister accused of embezzlement in "Albatross" Presidential Jet fiasco goes on trial in Yaounde.

Seal of the Cameroon Government
Former Cameroonian Interior Minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya, the politician at the centre of the Cameroonian Presidential Jet scandal, is currently on trial in Yaounde facing charges of embezzling USD$31million that should have been used to buy a new Presidential Jet sourced from the Boeing Company for President Paul Biya. 

The story goes, in 2001, Yaya, then Secretary General at the presidency, and his co-accused, amongst whom are the ex-head of the now defunct Cameroonian flag carrier Cameroon Airlines Yves Michel Fotso, Chief Ephraim Inoni, a former Prime Minister and head of government under Biya, Nkounda Julienne, and two others, were mandated by the Cameroonian Government to secure a Boeing Business Jet Second Generation (BBJ-2) for USD$31million for use by the President. It is then alleged that in early 2004 they instead colluded to hire a used Boeing 767 - The Albatross - for USD$2.6million and pocketed the remainder of the money for themselves.

But, as fate would have it, with the President and his family on board, the Boeing 767-216ER (TZ-AAC) developed technical problems on its maiden flight to Paris, France on 24 April 2004 and was forced to make an emergency landing. So irate was Biya at this embarrassing scenario that he launched a full investigation into the mishap, which culminated in Marafa's arrest along with that of the other five co-accused.

Cameroon Presidential Jet
"The Albatross" (Stephan Gimard)
Since the story broke in April 2004, there have been numerous wild allegations in the Cameroonian press that the aircraft itself was 'totally unsafe' and was in reality "a flying coffin" thereby putting the President and his family at risk each time it flew; some even claim that the purchase of the defective plane constituted an "attack on the nation of Cameroon itself".
Deeper investigation reveals that official testimony seems to dispute the claims that the President's life was in danger and that the situation was so dire as to warrant the emergency landing, though ironically, had this not happened, then perhaps Marafa and his associates could have gotten away with it all.

Presiding Judge Pascal Magnaguemabé, in his Order Instituting Separate Proceedings of January 2010 stated:
"[The "Boeing 767-200 ER" known as "Albatross"] was transported to Cameroon in a flight leaving from Atlanta in the United States on 04/22/2004 and landing in Yaounde on 04/23/2004.     

It departed again from Yaounde on 04/24/2004 for the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, with the President of the Republic and his family aboard, as well as a large delegation of important persons from Cameroon travelling to attend a summit planned for the following days in the French capital. Only, the plane had barely taken off from the Yaounde-Nsimalen airport with the illustrious person and his delegation aboard, when it experienced an incident while it was crossing the "Foumban" area.      

This incident made it necessary for the pilots to turn back to Douala. It was described as purely technical, in which "the leading edge flap was not retracting" and the plane could not reach cruising speed. While the plane was turning back to Douala, the onboard mechanic was called upon "to go down into the fuse room." While he was there, the mechanic "reset the circuit" and, after another try by the pilot, the flaps retracted and the situation returned to normal. The plane then resumed its heading toward Paris."

Then, the captain made an unwise move which turned an otherwise simple malfunction into a political debacle:
"When the problem (with the flaps) occurred, the pilots (Lieutenant Colonel Ndongue and Colonel Babodo Lewono) should have called for the mechanic seated at the end of the aircraft. All they needed to do to rectify the problem was to refer to the flight manual and to call for the mechanic. Instead, flight captain Betham chose to inform the President of the Republic that there was a problem with the aircraft and that it had to return to Douala for a checkup. He reassured the Head of State that this would not take long. In my opinion, the captain demonstrated a lack sang-froid by rushing to alert the President. He should have tried to solve the problem first."

Subsequently, the Cameroonian Government returned the aircraft to Boeing who disputed their claims that the aircraft was in terrible shape. Eventual litigation led to the Cameroon Government being forced to pay Boeing USD$2.6million for breach of contract.

But, at the end of the day, the case is not about the overall airworthiness of the Boeing 767, its about 5 high ranking government officials who were tasked with the responsibility of buying a brand new BBJ but instead hired a second hand 767 and whose actions, by a strange twist of fate (had the Captain kept a cool head and treated the flap malfunction as routine instead of informing the President then this whole incident may never have come to light), were exposed for what they are - fraudulent.

At the beginning of May, a former Cameroonian ambassador to the United States, Jerome Mendouga, was jailed for 10 years in connection with the case.

For more on the case:

► EGYPT: Egyptair cancels Sharm el Sheikh - London Heathrow in favour of added Cairo - London flights.

Following on from our original July update, Egyptian carrier Egyptair (MS) has announced a revision to its Cairo - London Heathrow and Sharm el Sheikh - London Heathrow routes, the latter of which will be cancelled and rerouted ex-Cairo from 28 October 2012.

The once (1x) weekly Luxor - London Heathrow flight remains unchanged.

Egyptair Boeing 777 [Click to enlarge]
Egyptair Boeing 777-300ER

Egyptair: Cairo - London Heathrow, United Kingdom
-Effective 28 October 2012, the existing 3x weekly Sharm el Sheikh – London Heathrow service will be cancelled and will shift to Cairo – London Heathrow, whose overall frequencies to LHR will now increase from 11x to 14x weekly. 
  • MS777 CAI0920 – 1235LHR 333 x5
  • MS777 CAI1145 – 1500LHR 333 5
  • MS779 CAI1435 – 1755LHR 738 2
  • MS779 CAI1700 – 2020LHR 333 4
  • MS779 CAI1745 – 2100LHR 738 13
  • MS779 CAI1745 – 2100LHR 333 67
  • MS779 CAI1745 – 2105LHR 333 5

  • MS778 LHR1355 – 2040CAI 333 1
  • MS778 LHR1400 – 2045CAI 333 x15
  • MS778 LHR1725 – 0010+1CAI 333 5
  • MS780 LHR2230 – 0515+1CAI 738 123
  • MS780 LHR2230 – 0515+1CAI 333 x123
Source [Airline Route]

► DJIBOUTI: Turkish Airlines to serve Mogadishu via Djibouti from September.

Turkish Airlines
It seems hardly a week goes by that Turkish carrier Turkish Airlines (TK) doesn't announce a new African destination. This time round, the new African route to be served will be Djibouti, with a tag on leg to Mogadishu, Somalia, which was previously serviced via Khartoum, Sudan. 

Turkish Airlines Africa Network
Turkish Airlines Africa Network
The 2x weekly flights are scheduled to begin 4 September 2012 with an Airbus A320 and, it should be noted, Turkish Airlines has also been given 5th Freedom rights to ferry passengers on the Djibouti - Somalia sector of the flight.

Turkish Airlines: Istanbul – Djibouti – Mogadishu, Somalia
- Effective 4 September 2012
  • TK686 IST2325 – 0440+1JIB0530+1 – 0705+1MGQ 320 24
  • TK687 MGQ0830 – 1005JIB1055 – 1600IST 320 35

► UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Emirates announces various changes to its Africa network for Winter 2012.

Dubai-based carrier, Emirates (EK) has announced various changes to its African network as it gears up for the Northern Hemisphere Winter.
Emirates Africa Network [Click to enlarge]
Emirates Africa Route Network

  Emirates NH Winter 2012 Africa Changes

Dubai – Cape Town, South Africa
- Aircraft used gradually switches to an Airbus A340-300.
  • EK772 DXB0350 – 1140CPT 343 1234567
  • EK770 DXB0850 – 1625CPT 343 1234567
  • EK773 CPT1330 – 0120+1DXB 343 1234567
  • EK771 CPT1810 – 0535+1DXB 343 1234567
  • EK770/771 operates with Airbus A340-300 instead of Boeing 777-300ER from 1 February 2013
  • EK772/773 operates with Airbus A340-300 instead of -500 from 1 March 2013 (Service is suspended from 1 September 2012 until 30 November 2012).
Dubai – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
- Effective 1 February 2013 (Previously stated as starting from 1 March 2013) 2-class 777-300ER replaces A340-500 hence no First Class service.

Previously announced:
Dubai – Johannesburg, South Africa 
- Effective 1 December 2012 Airbus A380 service resumes on EK761/762.

Dubai – Lusaka, Zambia – Harare, Zimbabwe
- Effective 1 October 2012 Service increases daily from 5 weekly; A330-200 operating.
Dubai – Tunis, Tunisia 
- Effective 1 December 2012, 3-class Boeing 777-300ER replaces Airbus A340-500; loss of First Class Suite service.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

► MALI: Air Mali struggling as civil unrest severely disrupts operations.

Air MaliCelestair Group's Air Mali (I5) has been forced to suspend a number of its flights as a result of the ongoing civil unrest in the Maghreb country, which has been raging since January 2012 and has seen the near partition of the country into two regions: the more conservative Islamic partition of Azawad in the north and Mali itself in the south.

► RWANDA: RwandAir rumoured to start Lusaka and Cape Town "in November".

According to fellow blogger RwandanFlyer, Rwandan national airline Rwandair (WB) is set to launch flights from its hub in Kigali, Rwanda to Lusaka, Zambia and Cape Town, South Africa "sometime in November of this year", though no official confirmation has been made available as yet.

A RwandAir Ad that semi-officially confirms Lusaka & Cape Town.
A RwandAir Ad on Facebook.
It is said that the launch of the flights will coincide with "the arrival of RwandAir's two new Bombardier CRJ-900NGs in October, that will be used on other regional routes, thereby freeing up RwandAir's Boeing 737-800s for use to Lusaka and Cape Town."

RwandAir's Network [Click to enlarge]
RwandAir's Network
It is uncertain whether or not the carrier will be granted 5th Freedom rights to service the Lusaka - Cape Town sectors and vice-versa.

In October 2011, RwandAir signed an 'option deal' for two Boeing 787s for delivery in either 2015 or 2016. This should hopefully be the beginning of an audacious expansion plan that will see the airline going head to head with two major regional players: Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways.

Stay tuned for further updates.

► NAMIBIA: Air Namibia announces sweeping changes to its African network.

Air NamibiaAs part of its efforts to rationalize its capacity and quality of service, Namibian flag carrier Air Namibia (SW) has announced various route changes to its Africa route network effective 5 August 2012.

► CONGO (KINSHASA): Korongo brings forward planned Johannesburg flight increase.

Korongo Airlines
Strong market demand has forced Congolese carrier Korongo Airlines (ZC) to bring forward its 4x weekly Lubumbashi, DRC - Johannesburg, South Africa, originally slated to have only come into effect on 1 September 2012, to 15 July 2012 (this has only be learned as of now!).

Korongo Airlines Avro RJ100
Korongo Airlines BAe146
Korongo Airlines: Lubumbashi, DRC - Johannesburg, South Africa
-Effective 15 July 2012
  • 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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

► MADAGASCAR: Air Madagascar reduces Paris flights from October.

Air Madagascar
With effect from Winter 2012 (i.e 28 October 2012), Air Madagascar is to reduce its current Airbus A340 operated 4x weekly flights from Antananarivo, Madagascar to Paris CDG, France to 3x weekly. Its other French route, Antananarivo, Madagascar to Marseille, France, is to remain a once (1x) weekly service.

Air Madagascar A340
Air Madagascar A340 in Paris (Didairbus)
Air Madagascar: Antananarivo, Madagascar – Paris CDG, France
-Effective 28 October 2012
  • MD050 TNR2050 – 0620+1CDG 343 1
  • MD050 TNR2350 – 0920+1CDG 343 46
  • MD051 CDG1620 – 0520+1TNR 343 257
 Source [Airline Route]

► SAUDI ARABIA: Saudia Cargo revenues up 25% from 2011 on the back of strong African market performance.

Saudia CargoIn spite of a very difficult global economy, Saudia Cargo (SV), the Cargo subsidiary of Saudi Arabian national carrier Saudia Airlines, has posted very strong numbers for the first half of 2012, with 251'500 tons of cargo being moved - a rise of 26% on this time last year of cargo - with revenues correspondingly rising by 25%. 

► SIERRA LEONE: British Airways adds third weekly flight to Freetown.

British Airways
From 31 March 2013, British Airways is to add a third weekly flight on its London Heathrow - Freetown, Sierra Leone route using a Boeing 767-300ER. 

In early July, British Airways had announced a reduction in service on the route from 3x weekly to 2x weekly following the replacement of the previous aircraft used on the route - a BMI Airbus A330-200 - with the aforementioned 767.

British Airways Boeing 767 [Click to Enlarge]
A British Airways Boeing 767-300ER (MinaBassaly)
British Airways: London Heathrow - Freetown, Sierra Leone
-Effective 31 March 2013
  • BA137 LHR2230 – 0525+1FNA 767 135
  • BA136 FNA1100 – 1830LHR 767 246

► LIBYA: Turkish Airlines to start Sebha effective September 2012.

Turkish AirlinesStarting 2 September 2012, Turkish Airlines (TK) continues its aggressive push into Africa, this time with the announcement of a new 3x weekly flight between Istanbul and Sebha, Libya to be serviced with an Airbus A320. At present Turkish Airlines operates a fairly extensive Libyan network with flights offered to Tripoli, Benghazi and Misurata.

Turkish Airlines' Libya Routes
Turkish Airlines' Libya Network

Turkish Airlines: Istanbul, Turkey - Sebha, Libya
-Effective 2 September 2012
  • TK641 IST0945 – 1215SEB 320 247
  • TK642 SEB1310 – 1730IST 320 247
Source [AirlineRoute]

As previously reported by The African Aviation Tribune, Turkish Airlines will shortly commence flights to Kinshasa, DRC and to Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.