Saturday, 20 October 2012

Around the traps this week..........

You can always rely on QATAR AIRWAYS' blunt speaking CEO Akbar al Bakr to say it like he sees it .He's done it again this week with his very clear and straightforward speech to the Airline Club of Great Britain.

He made three points in particular. Each of them hits the nail, and some individuals, squarely on the head. He is worth listening to.

- Britain is losing the airports race. The reality of Boris or any other island megahub airport is , with Britain's arcane planning and approvals process and general inability to just do anything in a hurry, decades away.London needs capacity building NOW.

- The legacy carriers , particularly a couple in Europe, who keep harping on about Gulf governments supporting their new airlines with capital or in other ways are hypocritical. How did they reach their formerly dominant positions and don't some of them get "assistance"  one way or another even now? Why are they less concerned with Asian than Gulf carriers. (Could it be that some of the Asian pioneers are beginning now to look and behave more like legacy airlines? Are they failing to renew their trail blazing credentials?)

- It's time the Gulf's critics stopped whining and got on with meeting customers needs, developing their products and throwing off the shackes of their unions. 

Surprisingly despite its veracity and significance his little list did not attract the attention of the media's "analysts" the next day. Where were they all by and sat next to his new best friend and One-World Sponsor Willie Walsh. It could have been to Walsh's advantage to be there and helpful to his possible future boss (see Airnthere previously). It might delay the day when he gets bored with him.

Not far away in the UK, GATWICK AIRPORT has broken cover with a proposal for a full capability second runway for 2019 or beyond. London's nunber 2 airport is absurdly hobbled in the meantime by an agreement by the then  UK Transport Minister, Michael Hesseltine not to build another runway there for 40 years when approval was given for the building of the North Terminal north of the then solitary terminal and the single runway. The North Terminal coincidentally happens to sit atop the best site for a second runway so this will now have to be built to the south instead. There's nothing like making life difficult for oneself, -or the future.

Meanwhile in AFRICA things are happening or maybe not. FastJet continues to announce progress, base changes, people and aircraft.Accra and Nairobi  having at least temporarily fallen by the wayside ,Dar-es Salaam is now the chosen first base (Bases increasingly get called call hubs. They are not. There is a big difference. Bases are about point to point traffic. Hubs are much more about transfer business). First flights are meant to start in November, which itself is just 11 days away. Not a schedule published or a seat sold yet though. First routes are Dar to Mwanza and Kilimanjaro,-or maybe Nairobi instead. Fog prevails and there is some concern that this is a venture full of ambition and intentions but so far lacking traction.  Could a linkup with Kenya Airways' long proposed low cost arm JamboJet be the way it actually gets airbourne ? Apart from sweeping aside any Kenyan obstacles, this would also give a very European-looking FastJet literally some African faces, not to mention understanding.

Further south in Africa at the seemingly rather unhappy SAA, three top executives including CEO Ms Siza Mzimala have left the company. The reasons are not clear but the airline's dramatic move from profit into loss won't have encouraged a longer stay. Whether there were frustrations and disagreements with government over the way forward, future funding and a host of other possible gripes is not clear. Governments tend to become hyper-directive and interventionist when their money is gurgling down the drain and that's hard for any CEO and team to cope with.

In EUROPE Germania is to take over most of Lufthansa's non Frankfurt and Munich based domestic flying. The cabin crew union in particular didn't give the airline much option. They ran a series of disruptive strikes against the company reducing costs by employing temporary contract crews, won an agreement that these would be terminated and unaffordably absorbed into Lufthansa on Lufthansa rates and terms and conditions so what did they expect? Again , just as in the BA cabin crew dispute last year, the unions have thrown away part of their and their existing members' future by defending the past to the (their) death. 

For anyone wondering where the airline action really is 24/7, we commend two or three APPS for their I-phones, I-Pads etc. The first is FlightRadar24 which for the princely sum of £2.99 shows almost all flights airbourne anywhere in the world. There are some mid Ocean, African and Himalayan gaps in particular but you can see the overall flows well enough. Zoom out and you have the world in minature. The different flow patterns at different times of day,- eg Asia-Europe, trans Atlantic,intra European , Australasian etc. are fascinating and informative. Zoom right in and you can have the runways of aiports and watch any flight approach and touch down.

Next is FlightTrack which enables any particular flight to be followed , while also giving historical punctuality figures.

Finally try FlightBoard which gives the live arrivals and departures boards of most of the world's airports. Again, informative and fascinating.

 Look at all these and for example what is going on at and around the Gulf airports at 0200. A little later view European airports at the same time of day. Notice anything? Any/many flights for example? Night jet bans, environmental lobbies, geography, working hours directives. All of these and more are somewhere in the UK/European pots, with beleagured and benighted London Heathrows eemingly more hobbled than  just about any other major airport on the planet. Different patterns and activity levels also pertain in Asia and the USA for different reasons .Who and where in the world is and who is not really up for business? More food for thought to add to Mr Al Baker's words of discomfort last week. Thought for the UK's government too.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

BAe- A view through the fog.

Until the news of "merger" (always beware that word and dig beneath it for signs of it really being a takeover by one or other party and certainly the disappearance of the component parts as currenly known) discussions between EADS and BAe, BAe appeared to be doing very well on its own .Its future prospects looked fair despite it having progressively lost interest in civil aircraft since at least the early 1970s. By selling its 20% holding in Airbus in 2006 it had become simply a jobbing tin basher specialising in wing production  for the European consortium and it had become very dependent on the military side of the business. Its focus on the American military has borne some fruit although it will always be precarious and at the mercy of trans Atlantic nationalism and protectionism.

BAe's leadership suddenly declared the EADS merger to be the only game in town. What had changed in a fortnight?

Reports that British politicians will get involved in talking to the Mrs Merkels and Monsieur Hollande sound alarm bells. It sound more like rather desparate sales promotion rather than neutral obstacle clearance. If so it isn't the move of a good negotiator or poker player. It hints at an inexplicable wish to definately sell off/merge BAe rather than a considered "We have no objection if that's what the companies decide to do" stance. Not exactly clever or playing hard to get . As result it's likely to diminish rather than increase BAe's leverage or price of joining. It's called throwing your cards away. EADS can only smile, shake its head and lick its lips.

Apart from the ritual "bigger is better" line BAe's management has not set out a reasoned rationale for merger or done anything convincing to reassure that the large US military market would even be half way open to the merged company if it were to be part of a business with substantial French and German governmental holdings and interests. The USA is at heart protectionist and wasn't born yesterday. Talk of walls of silence between the various divisions dealing with US contracts would be dismissed as not credible.

BAe walking away from its holding in Airbus was a major mistake as amongst other things it removed the virtual guarantee of ongoing A330/340/350/380 airliner series wing and other work . Its proposed merger is another one of serious proportions. There have been others stretching back to decisions from the 1970s to drop first the development of the One-Eleven airliner, its precipitate and oppostunistic bailing out of the Avro RJX airliner in the wake of 9/11. Too often it has behaved like Aesop's dog with a bone and dropped the one in its mouth to chase another fantasy one which has just come into view.  Now it's doing it again.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Qatar for IAG...or IAG for Qatar?

There have been a few rumours around over the last few days that Qatar Airways might sign up with IAG.

Initial gut reaction is-"Why would they consider forsaking their independence?  Are they mad (or bust)? Qatar Airways run by Walsh &Co ? No chance, the notion is absurd".

Then if you start thinking about it , how is this for a clever, indeed world- changing ,plan.....................? (The figures and percentages shown are purely illustrative for the sake of simplicity although were this scenario to happen they might not be far out)................................


- Currently IAG owns the BA (now including BMi) and Iberia brands.

-IAG's shareholding is diverse. The majority is probably with various institutions and the rest with individuals.

- Qatar Airways becoming part of IAG would mean the issue of an ADDITIONAL block of shares, -say forming 33% of the IAG total,- in exchange for the assets and business of the airline.

-Qatar Airways shareholders, aka the State of Qatar, then own 33% of IAG . Qatar would be by far the largest single shareholder.

-The State of Qatar then goes shopping for an additional 18% of shares to give it 51% and thereby control of IAG.

- Qatar is then a leading world player out of all proportion to its geographic and population size but very much line line with its recent thinking, actions and ambitions.

One could go on to speculate that...............

-Qatar Government hands IAG to (former) Qatar Airways management and the trojan horse takeover is complete.


-IAG secures a 24/7 base capable of vast runway and terminal expansion in the Gulf,- the new crossroads of many of the world's air routes.

-Qatar has, thanks to its vast gas reserves, funds to invest whatever it wants in this diversification and expansion of its position in the world's aviation business . It has the space and money to build or buy anything.

- Qatar has an aggressive stance on investment and expansion, things lacking in the current European psyche. The BA and Iberia brands would be developed to their full potential. No more agonising over whether to buy  8 777s or whether to make do with 6. Qatar's totally different mindset could revitalise and revolutionise both brands which are currently heading nowhere in particular. Current  IAG strategy appears to be to squeeze better results out of the existing businesses by a mix of cost and staff cutting ,reducing overheads (all much needed) , squeezing investment by under-serving  markets, and pushing up yields by spilling much of the lower yielding  business. The lack of expansion in capacity and network has allowed BA in particular to shrink from a/the number1 global player to primarily a trans-Atlantic business rather than maximising its potential. Even the product itself lacks the sort of inspiration we have seen from the Gulf and Asia.

Just think about what BA with money could look like.

In all this possible scenario there are obvious regulatory, who gets what slice of the cake and control , and other issues. There would be arguments about national interests, ownership of traffic rights but all of these are rapidly being swept away by open skies agreements and attitudes . De-regulation has been a massive boost to the industry, business and tourism and something as ground breaking as the possibility we have described would be a logical and exciting.

This is all Airnthere speculation of course and what, if anything , is afoot is not yet on the surface  Could something like this be happening ? We should know before long.  If it isn't.... .well there's an idea for someone as they drive home this afternoon.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

African Roundup August-September 2012

As foreshadowed in our previous African Roundup, Ethiopian Airlines has wasted no time in showcasing its August- delivered first B787.  By the end of September more than 25 cities network-wide have welcomed the aircraft and Washington has been identified as the launch route for regular services.  Funding is now in place, including internal cash reserves, covering all 10 ordered aircraft.

SAA is reviving attempts to create a West African hub, this time including its LCC subsidiary, Mango, plus SA Express.  Egyptair, too, joins the long list of carriers, past and present, with the same objective. All, including the Stelios-led fastJet , all despairing of the Nigerian alternative seem to have identified Ghana as the only real game in town/western continent.  Very simply the rule of English- based commercial  law there is uncomplicated , the official language is English and the welcome mat is spread even handedly. Use of the word ‘hub’ can though be misleading.  Nairobi and Addis Ababa are clearly hubs as natural on-line connecting points between cities without direct flights. But, it is difficult to see how SAA and Egyptair can achieve these benefits in Accra. For most of them them it would be feeder point to a single spoke back to their bases is a more apt term, although a local network by something like SA Express feeding itself regionally could make it a genuine hub.  Whether the Ghanian government and local comptitors would welcome this is though a matter of conjecture. The usual type and pattern  of operation is similar to Ethiopian Airlines investment in ASKY of Lome, Togo.  ASKY’s regional network is aimed at providing feed for through-running Ethiopian flights from Addis Ababa westward across the Atlantic and eastbound back to Addis Ababa and points beyond.

Winner of the “have we heard this before?” award this time is the Government of Malawi saying that it is setting out again to privatise or find a strategic equity partner for ailing parastatal, Air Malawi. As before the question is “ Why should anybody buy a debt loaded airline shackled to its past rather than start something entirely new? “ With fellow troubled carriers Air Tanzania and Air Zimbabwe, the airline shares quirks of history going right back to the 1970s (that’s forty years!) leading to its present unenviable cash-starved position. Agreement with Comair, South Africa, was close in 2008, but hikes in airport charges, fuel costs, and a falling Rand are today perhaps forcing different priorities.  Encouragingly, interest in the under-served Malawi market is currently lively.  Precision Air and Air Botswana are close to launching operations. SA Express has similar thoughts.  And start-up LCC FastJet with its newly announced Dar es Salaam inaugural base will surely consider neighbouring Malawi for network expansion. All this again suggests that the government’s best course of action would be to let the airline go to the wall, declare open skies  and just wait for the private sector from anywhere fill the gaps. Proactively it should woo one of the Gulf airlines to provide a link to their hub and at a stroke Malawi would be better served with connections to the world than it ever has been.  If the woefully inadequate domestic network is left uncovered then it would still be cheaper for the government to subcontract it to any bidder offering a simple consistent Blantyre–Lilongwe schedule several times a day plus a northern spine to mzuzu and Karonga and possibly across the Tanzanian border to Mbeya together with a daily lakeshore service to offer tourists a real easy to access way to get about. A Blantyre-Lilongwe-Chipata-Luangwa Valley-Lusaka service would also be useful in knitting together the low volume/high value tourist points in both countries.Zambia Airways briefly flew a weekly HS748 between Chipata and Blantyre but that was quickly killed off when it was realised that it was primarily feeding BA’s weekly VC10 service from Blantyre to London and neither Zambia nor Malawi were happy about that.

In Nigeria it has been business as usual .Conditions are seldom calm for long. With former Virgin Nigeria, latterly Air Nigeria suspending services for “a year” but quite possibly for ever,  Arik Air the current apparent nationally favoured carrier suddenly found themselves grounded by the authorities for non payment of some taxes . Stranded passengers all around the country were not impressed and fortunately an ‘Agreement’ between all parties enabled flights to resume 72 hours later.  The debts and the tensions between all players, each with its own interests and agendas ,remain. The outlook for the airlines’ customers remains a lottery.  As we say, business as usual in what should be the thriving dominant genuine hub of western Africa.

Which airline serves  Nouakchott, Djibouti, Hurghada, and soon, Libreville and Maputo in its route network?  Not a trick question, and not an African carrier. Little more than a decade ago these and similar points were overlooked by mainstream carriers.  But Turkish Airlines is now pushing rapidly and deeply into Africa as it is to secondary and tertiaryu points everywhere.  It is not alone.  Qatar Airways now serves Kigali and Iberia, Malabo.Lufthansa graces the ramp at Pointe Noire and British Airways prepares for Monrovia.  A steadily growing number of carriers now identify the continent as a strategic priority.Air Algerie is but the latest, hinting that new routes to Nigeria and South Africa might take precedence over exsiting long-haul operations. Interestingly, the A319 is often the aircraft of choice for right sized capacity and routes within its range.

Finally, the long-delayed expansion and redevelopment of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport is perhaps at last to gather pace.Intervention by Government has directed the Kenya Airport Authority into signing contracts with two Chinese companies.  Long frustrated by the terminal’s inadequacies (including denial of FAA Category 1 status), Kenya Airways will feel a milestone has been passed as they pursue world-wide growth aspirations. The acid test though will be how soon the first shovel hits the ground. Meanwhile it is important  that this does not divert attention away from the redevelopment of the existing terminal and its units. Kenya needs the the business and route spokes brought by the foreign airlines. Apart from anything else they help to keep Kenya Airways on its toes.


Ethiopian Airlines: As above, the airline took delivery on 14 Aug of the first of 10 ordered B787-8s. By late-Sep 25 network points visited. Delivery of the 2nd aircraft  will trigger Addis –Washington (Dulles) services services (Aug 2012)

Ethiopian Airlines ‘ CEO  has declared that their B787 corporate strategy is to link global 10hr non-stop secrtors over Addis Ababa– “Our business strategy is almost the same as Emirates”.  Revenue is targeted to grow 7-fold to USD10bn by 2025.  (Aug 2012)

Ethiopian Airlines says 737Max “makes more sense” than A320neo for next narrow body order.  7 737-800s are  already on order and this is unmistakeably a Boeing airline and always has been since the B707/720B/727 era , so why go through the complication of change if it can still get the best price deals from the US mauufacturer?  Its total fleet is to grow from 49 to 120 by 2025. (Aug 2012)

Ethiopian Airlines has launched Addis-Frankfurt services  with B767s.  Windhoek is  planned for introduction late 2012 (Aug 2012)

Ethiopian Airlines has taken delivery of the first of six B777-200F.  (Sep 2012)

Ethiopian Airlines’  Nigerian operations are to be expanded to better access the market without having to rely the airport most of the world wants to avoid,-Lagos  (In reality it is often better than the image but the International to Domestic link is dire) .Currently Lagos and Abuja are served and Port Harcourt ,Kano and Enugu are to be added . Abuja frequency is also to be upped from the current 5 weekly (Sep 2012)

Kenya Airways is reducing Nairobi-London services from 10 to 7 per week in Winter 2010/11. This is surprising in the wake of Virgin Atlantic withdrawing its daily services as the way was open for either Kenya Airways or BA  to seize the market initiative and go double daily instead of which BA has characteristically sat on its thumbs and Kenya Airways has actually reduced services. Presumably it has gained a few million pounds by selling the very valuable Heathrow slots but that that is a very short term benefit with a very high long term price.

Kenya Airways has secured an operating licence to launch LCC subsidiary, Jambo Jet . Its rationale, intended launch date, exactly what it will be and how it will interface with and affect Kenya Airways itself are not clear. It has also set up an IATA operations safety audit facility in Nairobi with GHS Aviation.(August 2012).

Kenya Airways Compulsory redundancies were blocked by Kenya’s Industrial Court and then reversed. From  1st. Aug voluntary redundancy was launched together with a  transfer of staff to newly outsourced suppliers. There has been a creeping 12% staff increase since 2007, for which their Human Resources department presumably must shoulder much of the blame for not keeping effective control  though no doubt the some of the decisions must have been imposed upon them. One would have expected output related increases in flight and cabin crew but they should have been matched by reductions in other areas to avoid legacy airline type staff number growth. The airline previously conducted a large scale cull including immediate compulsory management redundancies in 2003.   (Sep 2012)

Precision Air of Tanzania , 49% owned by Kenya Airways , in another relaxation of the Malawi governments former insistance that intrenational flights should be from Lilongwe not Blantyre ,is to launch 3 x weekly B737-300 services Dar es Salaam-Blantyre-Harare.            Angola  will to follow which will also be interesting as Fly540 which is to morph into Fastjet has operations in both Tanzania and Angola .(Aug 2012)

Precision Air has signed a code-share agreement with Qatar Airways. As in all codeshares this will give them a small commission on all flights sold under their flight number rather than the operator’s,-in this case Qatar. In most cases it does not imply a wider revenue of cost and revenue sharing arrangement . (Aug 2012)


Air Botswana’s  IATA membership  was re-instated after successful IOSA certification (Aug 2012)

Air Botswana is awaiting the arrival of 2 ex Lufthansa, Avro RJ85s to enable October 2012 network growth  including Gaborone to Nairobi, Blantyre, Lilongwe, Lanseria and Cape Town. The airline is used to the HS146/Avro RJ family and has used them on and off since the 1990s including on former  CEO Brian Pocock’s  visionary  but short lived “bus stop” service linking Johannesburg with Entebbe on a several times weekly through service calling at Gaberone, Harare, Lilongwe or Lusaka and Nairobi (Sep2012) 

Air Cemac (Congo Brazaville) the multi-year delayed start-up, co-owned by Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Eq Guinea, and Gabon, has ended an  accord with SAA due ‘deep differences of opinion’. Their new new strategic partner is declared as Air France / KLM., which is no surprise for a French speaking airline though a good number of their Francophone African colleagues are equivocal about feelings of their markets being dominated  by the former colonial airline.(Aug 2012)

Air Malawi  As mentioned above , the Government’s Privatisation Commission has announced a renewed attempt to secure a Strategic Equity Partner. Expressions of Interest close in early October. We suspect that they won’t be needing to enlarge their letterbox. (Sep2012)

Air Namibia reduced Windhoek – Accra frequencies from 5 to 3 weekly and capacity Windhoek –Johannesburg by substituting an ERJ135s on one of three daily rotations.  It would appear that they are losing out to the Gulf carriers and possibly Ethiopian and Kenya Airways in the battle for sixth freedom business between Europe and southern Africa .
Despite this setback the airline forecasts  60% passenger growth in 5 years through an expanded network and fleet plus tight cost control. In July 2011 the Government  granted the airline a ‘last chance’ USD150m bailout spaced over 3 years.  Possible code-sharing being explored with Emirates and Kenya Airways, with the latter as perhaps the most likely candidate. (Sep2012)

ECAir – Equatorial Congo Airlines on 24th August launched 3 weekly Brazzaville- Paris CDG with a PrivatAir-operated Boeing 757 (Aug12)

FreshAir (Zimbabwe) plans Low Cost style services between Victoria  Falls and Johannesburg. This is a new  49/51% joint venture company owned by 1Time of South Africa  and Nu-Aero of Zimbabwe  using 1Time MD87s. 1Time will drop Johannesburg-Livingstone services which serve the opposite (Zambian) side of the Zambesi and Victoria Falls. 
Back in history, Livingstone was the call between Entebbe and Johannesburg on the world’s first commercial scheduled jet service by BOAC’s Comet 1s in 1952. (Aug 2012)

Korongo Airlines 28 Aug Took delivery of its second BAE146-200 on 28th August . With this aircraft the airline will extend its domestic network to include Mbuji-Mayi and Kolwezi followed by Kisangani and Goma.  (Aug 2012)

LAM plans to start Maputo – Harare services on October 12.  (Aug 2012) 

LAM of Mozambique anticipates delivery of a B737-500 in Sep 2012 and third E190 in Nov 2012. However it also faces funding difficulties in establishing a planned stand-alone longhaul subsidiary. In view of the ammount of money a long haul operation would consume in fuel alone this looks like an idea better shelved. (Sep 2012)

SAA in reporting to the South African Government Public Enterprise Committee, again mentions   “a joint, SAA, SAExpress, Mango subsidiary in Accra with 49% ownership plus a strong local partner”.(Aug2012)

SAA and Qantas  have been granted a 2 year extension of permission to codeshare between Johannesburg, Perth, and Sydney, until end of March 2015. The relationship on this route goes back to the 1950s when Qantas operated fortnightly Super Constellations and SAA DC 7Bs on a Johannesburg-Mauritius- Cocos islands-Perth routing. The Qantas flight then continued to Sydney. (Sep 2012)

SA Express:  The Public Enterprise Minister has sacked the entire Board due persistent failure to present audited financial results.  A new Board is to be appointed to “resolve misalignment” with SAA strategy. Message to SA Express; “Know your place “. (Aug 2012)
                      Following the July launch of 3 weekly CRJ200 services direct from Durban to Lusaka  neatly bypassing a change of flights in Johannesburg Durban-Lusaka the airline will do do more of the same in October by launch 3 weekly Durban-Harare CRJ200 services . Durban-Malawi could follow. All this is excellent news for route devlopment in southern Africa . Meanwhile frequencies between Johannesburg and -Gaborone have from 2nd  September  been increased to 6  a day, aagain a verfy useful development. (Sep 2012)

Ulendo Airlink  of Malawi is starting domestic services with EMB120 and DO228. “Ulendo” in Malawi’s Chichewa language means “safari” or “journey” . The company is the trading name for Nyasa Express and appears to be a joint venture 51% owned by them and 49% by CFA Aviation based at Johannesburg’s Grand Central Airport . The company also declares itself to be a “partner” of the Ulendo Travel Group who are involved in the travel, travel agency, tourism businesses in Malawi.(Sep2012)

Meanwhile up and across the continent into an often more difficult aviation environment..............


Aero (Nigeria) plans a move into providing 3rd party C-checks on mid-sized aircraft (Aug 2012)
This carrier also anticipates August delivery of B737-400, B737-700 and Q400 aircraft as a fleet renewal programme (Aug 2012)

Africa World Airlines (Ghana) has launched domestic services with 2 former Tianjin Airlines ERJ145s. The controlling shareholder Hainan Airlines  has appointed  Zhang Jiuhua as CEO (Sep 2012)

Air Guinee International’s start-up has been abandoned due to the collapse of a planned Guinee/China joint venture (Aug 2012)

Air Cote d’Ivoire’s  launch has been rescheduled to October due to delays to the planned  Air France A319 lease.Sensibly Paris is not shown in the network development plans. Maybe this is not surprising as Air France is a 35% shareholder.  (Sep 2012)

Air Mali: Civil unrest has forced the halt of domestic operationsa  and the switch of 3 MD87 to fellow Aga KhanFED carrier,Air Burkina.A CRJ200 maintains links to Conakry, Abidjan and Accra  (Sep 2012)

Air Nigeria was suspended from the IATA Clearing House  in August and as reported in our headlines on 10the September ceased  all flying “for 1 year”  due to ‘staff disloyalty and environmental tension’.  Financial pressure has grown throughout 2012 . The indictment of the CEO for USD30m unpaid corporate taxes was one of a number of discouragements to this once very hopeful project. (Sep 2012)

Antrak (Ghana) is taking delivery of a second ATR72 one month after resumption of domestic services . This follows  the May 2012 loss by fire its of its sole aircraft. (Aug 2012)

ArikAir imposed a snap suspension of domestic operations  citing ‘persistent hostility’ from Ministry of Aviation and Federal Airports Authoritity of Nigeria over alleged  outstanding debts. Services resumed after 72 hours.The company hopes at some stage to float on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (Sep 2012)

Corsair (France) will in October Oct to launch 4 weekly B747-400 scheduled services between Paris Orly and Dakar (Sep2012)

CTK CityLink Airlines  has suspended operations and  returned a leased F100.  Cash-flow problems were the cause.Aug 2012)

Dana Air (Nigeria) The Nigerian CAA has given clearance for the resumption of operations from 5th September after the suspension of its operating licence following  the June 2012 MD83 crash in Lagos (Sep 2012)

FastJet has announced that  Dar es Salaam is now to be the launch base. Accra or Nairobi seem to have been too difficult  for the launch as one can assume a number of local trip wires and extended feet in the way but they remain in the intended Pan-Africa low cost carrier/s plans. Inaugural services will be domestic flights to Mwanza and Kilimanjaro with one or two  A319s. Hardly a big bang arrival onto the African scene, but maybe a stealth “We are not a threat to anybody” approach is being taken?  (Sep 2012)

Fly540 Ghana.  This carrier which is intended to progressively morph into FastJet will in  September launch E170 and ATR72 services between Accra ,Abidjan,Freetown and Monrovia. Accra  to Lagos is slated to follow . Currently this sector which one would expect to be busy is flown only twice daily, once in the morning by a CRJ and the other in the afternoon by a 737-800.(Sep2012)

Gambia Bird plans to  launch of A319 in October services on the 111 mile route between  Banjul and Dakar , currently served by other carriers offering 5 ATR 72 and 3 Boeing 737-800 flights a week. An undefined  “full West African network” is planned to follow as well as cash-guzzling essentially low yield (package holiday) long haul services to London Gatwick and Barcelona.  plus ops to LGW and BCN . This carrier is a 90/10% joint venture between Germania and the Gambian Government. Ambitiously, a Banjul located MRO is also planned. 10 Gambian nationals under training in Germany.(Sep12)

Med-View Airlines , a Nigerian Hajj carrier plans to join the fragmented  Nigerian domestic fray with domestic oparations flown by  2 B737-400s. (Sep 2012)

Starbow of Ghana launched regional services Accra to Cotonou in mid Aug 2012 followed by Abidjan on 03 Sep.  Monrovia and Ougadougou are to follow (Sep 2012)


Air Algerie talks of 2012-17 plan to boost its  African network possibly at the expense of other long-haul services. The fleet to be expanded with new B737-800s and the B767-200s are to be retired.(Aug 2012)

Air Arabia Maroc is to launch A320 services between Marrakech and Milan from October 2012.  (Aug 2012)

Air India is eyeing non-stop services to Lagos in a review of governmental air service agreements between India and Nigeria (August 2012).

Afriqiyah has, as part of its revival  converted orders for  3 A320 to 3 A330-300 as expansion gathers pace.  (Aug 2012)

EgyptAir is another ailrine looking at the creation an Accra hub. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with CTK Aviation of Ghana (Sep 2012)

Royal Air Maroc is planning to resume services to London Gatwick . Meanwhile it has deferred (had deferred) deliveries of Boeing 787s until the end of  2014.(Sep 2012)

Syphax Airlines now operates a point to point network linking Sfax, Djerba and Tunis to Paris, Nice and Marseilles plus Istanbul and Tripoli. It is contemplating fleet growth with the A320 family.  (Aug 2012)

Tunisair  took delivery of an A319 on 16 July. This was the third of 10 on order. Orders for 3 A330 and a number of A350s are said to be imminent  (Aug 2012)


Air Berlin has announced its withdrawal of Munich-Mombasa flights from March 2013. This coincides with the end of the warm dry season and the likely holding of Kenya’s General Election about which there are public order concerns. The airline continues to make losses and there is little proposect of the Mombasa route making money at least during Kenya’s long rains from March to May. (Aug 2012)

British Airways is from 5th Nov to extend the former BMi weekly London Heathrow to Freetown service to Monrovia using a B767-300. Monrovia was last served by BA mainline in 1990 just before the then rebels invaded the city. BA had inherited the route from British Caledonian and it was operated by DC10s flying out of Gatwick. The new target market is US originating oil-related traffic.  (Sep 2012)

Eastern Express (Fujairah, UAE) has launched  twice weekly flights from both  Sharjah and Djibouti to Somalia , together with one to Nairobi and Somalia. A leased ATR 42 is employed.  Somali domestic points also served.  (Aug2012)

Emirates  is to resume Dubai to Tripoli services from 29 October with A330-200s.  (Aug 2012)

Saudi Airlines Cargo  is to add 9 West African points to its B747F Lagos hub. These will be Abidjan, Accra, Cotonou, Douala, Libreville, Lome, Malabo, Niamey and Ouagadougou. (Sep 2012)

Turkish Airlines has  cntinued to develop its multi-spoked probing into Africa (and almost everywhere) with the launch services from Istanbul to Kinshasa on 27 August. They are also  to replace Khartoum with a Djibouti stop on existing Mogadishu flights. In addition on 16th September the airline launched  a thrice weekly Istanbul-Nouakchott- Dakar-Istanbul triangular service . This replaced Tunis as the intermediate stop and Tunis has its own services.  Libreville and Maputo are likely to be added to this remarkable Istanbul hubbed network  soon .(August 2012)

United Airlines is  planning five B787-8 services between Houston and Lagos from Jan 2013. These replace the larger 777-200s currently used. No change of frequency is involved so overall capacity decreases.(Aug 2012)


AFRAA membership of the joint fuel-buying agreement has risen to 13 carriers.  AFRAA negotiates with suppliers on a pooled volume basis whereas carriers contract individually.  (Sep 2012)

IATA  DG Tony Tyler, speaking in Dakar, highligted the growing use by some African governments of aviation as a ‘cash cow’ thus compromising aviation’s ability to act as an economic growth catalyst.  He cited Senegal’s USD68 per passenger Airport Development  Fee. He has said much the same about Britain’s extortionate and rising levels of Air Passenger Duty which are believed to be having an increasing effect as a demand suppressant. (Sep 2012)

Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation undertook a two-week investment drive in China, U.S.A and Canada to redress the infrastructure gap in Nigeria’s aviation sector. It has a serious credibility mountain to climb.(Aug 2012)

Nigeria Domestic operators are considering a domestic fares increase ,– possibly 30%.  Amongst other things, aircraft lease costs have jumped due to higher risk assessment by lessors (Aug 2012)

Nigeria’s  Ministry of Transport has announced construction of new international terminals at Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu. China Nexim Bank funds are employed. (Sep 2012)

South Sudan  The EU has granted €12.5m and China to loan USD158m for Juba Airport upgrades.  Air Uganda, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways operate to this city which was on the historic Imperial Airways pre World War 2 routes between Europe and eastern, central and southern Africa. It disappeared from international air  services  at the end of Hunting-Clan, Airwork and Central African Airways Vickers Vikings on Colonial Coach services in the mid 1950s and has only reappeared recently with the separation of Sudan and South Sudan.
Meanwhile the  Government is planning a Private Public Partnership funded national airline, including 20%Govt and 49% international investors. Investors could be hard to find in view of the country’s fragile political state.  An overseas team is to set up and manage the airline.Invitations to Tender have been issued issued. (Aug 2012)

Sudan and South Sudan governments have agreed to the resumption of direct air services between the capitals, Khartoum and Juba, ending 6 months of suspension (Sep12)

The Uganda Government has called for the revival of Uganda Airlines which ceased flying in 2001 after many years of loss making. Possibly President Museveni who has previously said “Uganda doesn’t need an airline” has changed his mind ,but in all events it is unlikely that a national airline would add to the 18 destinations already flown direct by independent and foreign operators. Its most likely effect on government expenditure would be negative. (Sep 2012)

John Williams
September 2012

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Andrew Woodrow's view of Low Cost,High Quality and Simplicity in Malaysia.

The Low Cost Carrier Terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a bit of a surprise. Having been through the city's large, modern, and almost empty main terminals a number of times, I was expecting more of the same when queuing for the cheap seats.
The first hint you get that all is not quite as you would expect is when you follow signs for the cargo terminal, a couple of miles from the passenger ones. You go straight past that and roll up next to a vast, hanger-like shed. No steel and glass here, but masses of people swarming to the 72 check in desks lined up against the wall.
The check in queues are efficient, as is security, and within minutes you have been transported along with several hundred others through to the departure hall. And a hall it is,- another large shed, this time with windows out to the apron and a handful of shops. It’s healthily busy, in contrast to the main terminals on the other side of the airport. Plenty of standard airport chairs, 10 gates, and nothing fancy. Outside there is no sign of the main airport but over 20 Air Asia A320s.
The apron layout is, like the terminal, the work of a functionalist genius. Each of the 10 gates opens out to a long covered walkway running the length of the terminal and quite some distance in each direction beyond it. At right angles to this walkway are 6 further covered walkways, jutting out into the apron. Each of these walkways is the length of 3 A320 wingspans, so 6 of the aircraft, 3 on each side, park nose-in to each covered walkway at a time. The walkways are close together ,– just enough space to reverse an A320 out between the tails of the parked aircraft.  In total it’s possible to have 36 aircraft in a very small space . If Heathrow arranged its stands like this then BA could park all of its fleet at T5.
On leaving the gate you are told your ‘Bay Number’ and off you go to find your plane. The last bit between the walkway and the bottom of the steps is uncovered. There are no travellators anywhere, and one of the cabin crew stands at the entrance from the walkway to the bay to check you are getting on the right plane. No sign of any other ground staff, though a dispatcher appears just before the doors are closed with a manifest. He’s probably seen off half a dozen planes in the last half hour. In total there are two gate staff on each gate plus the crew member just before you get on the plane. On board, including the one sent to the bottom of the stairs to assist, there are 4 stewardesses who, given that the plane I am on is transporting a rugby team, are probably wishing they weren’t quite so young and pretty and wearing short skirts and tight tops.
It’s lean and mean and built on the assumption that passengers can generally look after themselves -  passengers do after all have a certain amount of self-interest in getting to the plane, - and don’t mind walking. Even so, both on the ground and in the air there are plenty of Air Asia staff around. The difference when compared to the European and US travel experience is that they seem to spend their working hours actually working, – which in this case means getting people to the right place, making sure they are fed and watered, and doing it with a smile.
The only criticism would be the incessant announcements that echo around the shed . I’m pretty sure they are as incomprehensible in Bahasa Malaysia as they are in English.