African airspace Demands more Airline Companies
When all is set for airline and aviation executives from across the world to meet in Seychelles for the Routes Africa 2012 forum, Africa is looking for the best options to attract more airline services to fly its open airspace.
Africa has recently observed a high demand for airlines as the number of tourists and business travelers from Europe, America, Asia, and within the continent has increased in recent years, pushing for more hotels and smooth tourist services demand.
Low-cost airlines are coming into operation in Africa, with South Africa leading the way for low-cost air transport. Low-fare airline 1Time is a new product of the increase on holidays and travel business in the Southern African region.
1Time is the only airline offering direct flights from Johannesburg in South Africa to the Indian Ocean spice island of Zanzibar through its three flights a week schedule.
Mike Bond, 1Time airline’s Commercial Director, said the increased demand for tourist holidays in East Africa had attracted his airline to introduce flight service to the historic Kenyan port of Mombasa while looking for more destinations in the Southern and Eastern African region.
1Time has been flying to Zanzibar since 2007, when it introduced one flight a week and started to offer packages with a wide range of accommodation on its website.
As a result, South Africans now account for nearly 10 percent of Zanzibar’s tourism market, and this has led to 1Time offering accommodation packages at some of its other destinations, including Mombasa, and Livingstone on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls.
The airline introduced its Zanzibar service at a time when South Africans were being priced out of the market in Mauritius, which had become popular with tourists from the Britain and France.
Zanzibar, with its interesting history as a one-time Arab colony and center of the slave trade, its spice trade, and its white beaches and warm seas, has a lot to offer and attracts growing numbers of tourists from South Africa.
Seychelles is also becoming popular with South Africans, and the archipelago’s national airline, Air Seychelles, which flies to Johannesburg, also flies to London and continental Europe, playing a major part in the development of Seychelles tourism.
Etihad has entered an agreement with Air Seychelles and which will enable the islands’ flag carrier to renew its fleet with fuel-efficient, new-generation aircraft and grow its already extensive route network.
Air Seychelles is preparing to add two wide-body, big aircraft to its fleet and launch services to Beijing early next year. Etihad’s acquisition of a share holding in Air Seychelles follows its recent acquisition of a 30 percent share in Air Berlin and which will help to increase in European tourists to the Seychelles.
South African Airways (SAA) is as well extending its route network in Africa. Its newest destination will be Cotonou in Benin, which will be added on May 17 as an extension to the airline’s flights to Pointe Noire in the Congo. The new service will be twice a week, and booking is open.
Air France and its partner, KLM, which flies to Cape Town, are also extending its route network in Africa. Air France will fly nonstop between Paris and the Nigerian capital of Abuja from June 4, using an Airbus A330-200 with a longer and wider lie-flat business class seat.
The flight will go on from Abuja to the oil town of Port Harcourt. A spokesperson for Air France said the new flight was in addition to Air France’s daily flights to Lagos and Port Harcourt and is part of Air France and KLM’s continuous growth strategy in Africa.
With limited and few vibrant airline companies, Africa stands a better position to attract foreign airlines. Today, the Middle East registered airlines are dominating East African airspace.
Emirates and Qatar Airways operate daily flights from the Middle East to Tanzania, leading other global airlines in flying more passengers between Tanzania and other parts of the world.
Kenya Airways, South African Airways, and Ethiopian Airways remain the only leading airlines registered on African soil. Most of the rest of the airlines in Africa are operating unreliably, while most national airlines are in financial and operational crises.
Precision Air, Tanzania’s fast-growing, privately-owned airline has been a good example of a well-managed air carrier in sub-Saharan Africa. Growing from merely a small aircraft charter company, Precision Air has grown into a full-fledged airline, fast expending from its Dar es Salaam hub to Eastern, Southern, and Central African destinations.
The airline provides a good and quick connection to Seychelles through the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in just a four-hour flight between Dar es Salaam and Victoria.
The Routes Africa 2012 Forum has attracted attendance by three leading Middle East carriers flying to Seychelles. These are the Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad.
It must be noted that Etihad is now in partnership with Air Seychelles and operating daily flights to this mid-ocean Vanilla Island. Emirates has 13 weekly flights to Seychelles, and Qatar has 7 weekly flights. They have positioned themselves as the leading airlines connecting Africa to the rest of the world.
Kenya Airways also has excellent access across Africa and operates three weekly flights to Seychelles, and it can use this forum to reposition itself. It is believed that Arik Air and Air Austral are both expected to be present at this July airline forum, according to Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St. Ange.
Routes Africa believes in the triangular approach to tourism and air development - airline, civil aviation authority, and tourism boards - and this approach is set to play an important part at the July Africa forum, which will be held in Seychelles, he noted.
From the USA, it is expected that Dallas Fort Worth is considering marking their presence, as is Copenhagen from Europe. Africa is so far being represented by Mozambique, Ghana, and Tanzania, among other countries.
The La Reunion Tourism Board (IRT) has also confirmed that they intend to be present to showcase La Reunion as a leader in the Vanilla Islands group and also to seek new partnerships in the field of air access.
It is expected that Routes Africa will move to the Seychelles for their 2012 forum (July 8-10) to offer an opportunity for airlines of Africa to rally and discuss affiliations and working arrangements for a new way forward.
Many airlines from Africa and from the Indian Ocean islands have so far already taken up on the unique chance to look at new opportunities. It is reported that South African Airways is set to travel to Seychelles as part of a high-powered South African delegation headed by South African Tourism Minister Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkuyk and his Tourism Director General, said Minister St. Ange.
BY APOLINARI TAIRO