Tuesday, 27 December 2016

African Roundup October November 2016

 November has seen Fastjet celebrate its fourth birthday whilst facing falling passenger numbers and substantial operating losses. No presents there,- and certainly none for the shareholders. One commentator has remarked that they are “chasing a market that doesn’t exist; there is no demand for an Africa-wide LCC operation”. Can this be true? There is some evidence. Of the 53 African countries, South Africa is alone in having mature LCC operations, flying a basic Johannesburg - Cape Town - Durban triangle.  These are domestic routes that have been operating for along time. They have no visa requirements, and all enjoyed pre-existing high volumes at start-up. Fastjet’s highest volume route is also domestic, Dar es Salaam– Mwanza, although this sector was born only out of Kenya's foot dragging four years ago. It wasn’t in Fastjet’s early business plans. Mwanza has never had it so good.

Successful LCC operations depend on ever-growing passenger volumes and high aircraft utilization spread across several routes per day. These criteria are rarely met in Africa. There are both operational and cultural reasons. Almost all European capital cities enjoy multiple daily flights between each other. But these are exceptional in Africa. Sector distances are long and daylight-only thereby limiting multi-sector daily rotations and high utilization. Nairobi – Johannesburg is 1800 miles.  Sectors of this length demand jets, not cheaper to operate turbo-props. In Africa, many neighbouring countries have few historic links between them. This is especially true when neighbours came under different colonial rule and therefore speak different languages. In those cases business, cultural and social links are particularly minimal. Even where there is no language problem there are often local tribal and nationalistic factors at work to inhibit even sensible co-operation. Few Zimbabwean businesses have trading links with Zambia even though it’s next door. Few Tanzanian citizens travel for pleasure or to visit grandchildren in Malawi as cross border relationships are few even close to the boundaries. South Africa does attract regional business people, as well as a lot of illegal immigration from other African countries but neither it nor what is seen as the rather brash Kenya draw in much genuine regional tourism or leisure traffic although both do score on international connections. As result of this limited demand ,legacy national carriers often fly just 2 or 3 days a week between neighbouring capitals with only flights Nairobi or Johannesburg meriting higher frequencies. Luanda for example only has daily flights to Lisbon and (twice) to Johannesburg, Angola having warded off foreign airlines by granting very limited frequencies. West Africa is similar. Underlying demand does exist but it is tiny compared to Europe on which Fastjet appeared to base its business model. The airline looked at the population data and decided that demand was suppressed by lack of city pair links and frequency meaning that explosive growth should follow their introduction. Experience in other parts of the world would say that’s right but what if in Africa it isn’t and they are chasing a pan-African market that doesn’t exist in the right quantities to make it all work?

Air Tanzania, having weathered wretched times for most of its 50 years of life but especially  since the 2003 collapse of the SAA joint venture may yet have a brighter future, albeit with a huge upfront infusion of cash followed by regular supplements to keep it going. Two new Bombardier CS300s have been ordered to add to the existing 3 new Q400s now being delivered. Less encouragingly there is talk of maybe three more larger aircraft and long haul operations. At the start of this year a single, ageing, Dash8-300 comprised the fleet and served a limited domestic network. The new 130-150 seat jets open possibilities for Air Tanzania to re-launch more distant regional destinations. By placing the order the Government has demonstrated support for the recently appointed new CEO and again its nervousness about the long term commitment of FastJet particularly now that its main African operation looks like being much more South Africa rather than Tanzania orientated.

The future dims a little though for other carriers although they are trimming some long haul network excesses. Camair-Co, born just 5 years ago following the collapse of Cameroon Airlines, has withdrawn from Paris operations to concentrate on domestic flying. Competing with Air France made no financial sense and just wasted resources. Likewise Air Botswana has withdrawn from even nearby Harare and Lusaka in favour of domestics and the well travelled Johannesburg route.  Both carriers are chronic loss-makers.  Both too are state-owned, micro-controlled and subject to all kinds of personal and political agendas which get in the way of them functioning as normal sensible businesses. Cutting loss-making routes helps trim costs in the short term but can place small carriers below the ‘critical mass threshold’ important to long-term survival. It’s that critical mass which is the problem. Malawi is another classic example for which even Ethiopian doesn’t seem to have an answer.

St Helena’s quest to get scheduled flights launched continues. Atlantic Star Airlines has flown a proving flight with the robust and very versatile BAe RJ100, this one fitted with reserve tanks. The Lockheed Hercules is another possibility although it’s not of course designed as an airline passenger carrier. Comair’s single visit with a 737-800 from Johannesburg isn’t something either the crew or airline are inclined to repeat in the near future.  Meanwhile the good ship, RMS St Helena, continues to provide a mainland link. How heavy and bulky cargo will be carried anyway once the vessel is retired remains unexplained.


Air Tanzania  The Government has ordered a third new Q400 together with two Bombardier CS300s, – the first such order from the continent, so probably very attractively priced.  Delivery dates have yet to be confirmed. A possible B787 order is also mentioned.  The Government envisages a fleet of 7 aircraft in 2018 flying a network expanded to include Europe, USA and China. That’s a lot of cost. East African Airways and its successors have headed down that path at regular intervals. Kenya has come closest to making an extensive network work but that has stalled recently and is now seeking revival. 

Ethiopian Airlines as part of its aim to be Africa’s most influential airline is talking to governments of 10 countries, including Botswana, Uganda, Congo and Zambia about providing assistance in launching new national carriers. The last airline to do that on a large scale was BOAC in pre-independence days when, through BOAC Assosciated Companies, it took holdings in a range of small local and regional airlines which were to mature into long haul flag carriers. East African, West African, British West Indian, Bahamas Airways, Malayan Airlines and Gulf Aviation were all part of that portfolio. The policy did keep others, notably KLM, out but it is questionable whether it was financially or even politically worthwhile in the long term. Times change though and Africa is Africa. Being under Ethiopian’s wing might just keep struggling and fledgling national airlines their best chance of real lift off especially if local politics and vested interests can be held at bay.

Cape Town frequencies rise to 10 weekly from December. The present daily service is scheduled for 787 operation while the additional frequencies will use B767s.  Closer to home the Juba operation has restarted with Q400, after 4 month pause. Next up should be Victoria Falls flights starting in February. Then there is a B787 route to Stockholm continuing to Oslo from March.

The next fleet decision, expected before the end of the year, will be on ten 100-seat aircraft.  Emb190 and Bombardier CS100 are main contenders. That’s an interesting one,- whether to go for the top end of the EMB 170/190 range or the bottom end of Bombardier’s new CS offerings.

Fastjet Plc as part of its financial manoeuvrings has sold its single, owned, A319 for US$8.0m cash but had to lease in a similar aircraft to cover operations while it grapples with getting EMB series aircraft onto its AOCs.

 The current fleet is 4 aircraft:  3 A319s, one each registered in Tanzania and Zimbabwe plus the leased Bulgarian one . A single leased EMB190 is also based in Dar es Salaam.

Additional funding is already being sought following the raising of £15m in August. Higher than expected (Why? Surely they must all be contractual?) return costs on the leased A319s are blamed plus other business ‘stabilisation’ costs including the ongoing glacial HQ move from Gatwick to Johannesburg . Victoria Falls and  Dar es Salaam to Nairobi and Entebbe fell off the network map on 5th December and plans to create Fastjet Zambia and Fastjet Kenya have been suspended.

It wasn’t too happy at the top either. Chairman Colin Child resigned, just 15 months after his appointment.

Jambojet (Kenya Airways LCC subsidiary) has upped frequencies to at least double-daily from Nairobi to Eldoret, Kisumu, Ukundu and Lamu. Other private Kenyan airlines see this as unfair competition sustained with the help of Kenya Airways backing.

Kenya Airways continues to be distracted by its internal problems.  A 7-day pilot’s strike was called by their seldom smiling union KALPA from 18th October demanding senior management removal, including CEO Mbuvi Ngunze. A court banned the action and flights eventually operated normally. KALPA subsequently withdrew its strike notice but CEO Mbuvi Ngunze is to leave in the first part of 2017, probably with a sigh of relief. A new Commercial Director, Vincent Coste, formerly with Air France-KLM and latterly Qatar Airways was appointed with effect from November 1st. 27% shareholder KL will feel more comfortable with the appointment of an alumnus than it would have been with someone from another group. He will find Kenya Airways a very different thing to Qatar. If he can bring a touch of a Gulf airline’s quality and development approach together with discipline on the front line to the airline he could achieve a lot. To do that he really needs a fully supportive and highly capable team around him. This was the very successful recipe when the Speedwing team of four led by Brian Davies steered the airline through privatisation and for a while afterwards.

Meanwhile spokes fall off the all important hub. That’s not how a hub model works. Abuja and Gaborone are dropping out of the network. To compensate there is some thickening of more successful routes with Mumbai and Dubai becoming double daily at the end of October along with other frequency upgrades within East Africa.

Rwandair in its breakout into longer haul operations took delivery of the second of two new A330s on 30th November. London A330 services should start in January 2017 and an ambition to get to New York could drive the purchase of the A350.  Harare is also due to join the network in January.
Sudan Airways the State President has announced that the airline will receive 14 new aircraft in 2017 financed by a Chinese loan. Their intended deployment is unknown. In the 1960s and 70s Sudan Airways was an early sixth freedom operator with a limited hubbing network between London, Europe and East Africa via its Khartoum base. The current fleet consists of two A320s and a single leased B737-300.  The airline remains on the ‘EU black list’.
It’s not all plain sailing with their own government though. On 16th November the Sudan CAA fired a shot through the country’s own foot by ordering the suspension of domestic services due to pricing irregularities in contravention of a Government Directive on fares. Presumably this had something to do with the common problem of governments demanding  low fares on domestics but then refusing the pay for the resultant loss.
Uganda Airlines The Government is planning to spend US$331m on new, not leased, aircraft for the putative new state-owned carrier, including A330 and CRJ900s. Their deployment is unclear but it’s likely that one intention to benefit from Kenya Airways’ current disarray.


Air Botswana has confirmed a codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways linking Gaborone, Maun and Francistown with Qatar’s double-daily Johannesburg services.

Bearing in mind Africa’s paucity of direct air services between city pairs an unwelcome development was the withdrawal of even low frequency flights to Harare and Lusaka from 12/13 November. Both were served by ATR42-50s, Harare twice weekly and Lusaka once. One of the daily domestic Kasane (near the borders of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) flights also goes. Fleet renewal remains pressing and the search continues for partners to help fund US$220m for up to 7 new aircraft, a mix of turbo-prop and jet. Given the airline’s past record there could be shortage of takers though as usual China is a possible as it seeks to extend its influence and control across the continent. The fleet is now three aging ATR42-500s and a single ATR72-500. The 2014/15 operating loss on this modest operation was declared as US$15.6m.

Air Madagascar says Air Mauritius and Air Austral (Reunion) are among the favourites to enter into a strategic partnership. A decision due by end of 2016 to sell a 49% stake.

EC Air (Congo Brazzaville) Services were suspended in early October when ASECNA, provider of Air Navigation Services, stopped providing service due to unpaid debts.  PrivatAir, the Swiss supplier of the flight crews plus technical support, has withdrawn and membership of the IATA Clearing House has ceased.

Fly Blue Crane (S Africa) has entered Business Rescue, similar to US Chapter 11 protection from creditors pending restructuring. Flying started in September 2015 with a single ERJ145 on a domestic network serving two of the usual suspects, Johannesburg and Cape Town, plus Kimberley and Bloemfontein. Talks continue with potential investors.
FlySafair (S Africa) LCC has again offered to buy SAA LCC subsidiary Mango for which SAA has reported a US$2.5m net loss for year end March 2016. Safair has no interest in a part share sale following an earlier Finance Minister stated sale possibility. A part share in a business controlled by a highly interventionist government is hardly an attractive proposition.
Rainbow Airlines (Zimbabwe). This privately-owned start-up carrier planned to launch flights on 22October with a leased MD87 operating between Harare and Victoria Falls. August was the original target date.
SA Airlink is anticipating the imminent delivery of its first of its two Emb140s. Current fleet is 12x ERJ135s, 8xBAe J41s and two ERJ145s.  The fleet of 12 ARJ85s is being run down. A privately owned carrier, the airline operates as a SAA franchisee with code-shares and scheduling integration. 
SA Express Although SAA secured a US$351m state guarantee last month SA Express was not included and so remains unable to file its 2015-16 financial statements.  The airline plans to stabilise on a 20 aircraft fleet of 90-seat leased jets over the next 5 years.  CRJ900 and E190 are competing.  A decision is expected in February.
Skywise (S Africa) LCC plans to re-launch before the end of this year. It ceased flying in December 2015 due to outstanding debts.  The company has now been sold to S African private equity company, Motlekar Holdings, which talks of re-equipping with Chinese aircraft. That’s not a well known recipe for success.

Swazi Airways (Swaziland). This state-owned start-up leases one of those old stalwarts ,a B737-300, from South Africa.  Operations were originally announced to start in February this year with the network possibly extending to Cape Town, Harare, Dubai and Bombay. The Swaziland Government is also a shareholder in SwaziAirlink, the joint venture with SA Airlink.

Air Côte d’Ivoire is planning the imminent launch of services to Bangui and Kigali.
Senegal Airlines and Royal Air Maroc are talking of forging a new relationship. The previous mutual shareholding with Air Senegal International collapsed in 2009.

Arik Air (Nigeria) privately-owned, launched in Oct 2000 celebrated its 10th anniversary by announcing an ambitious search for US$1billion through a mix of 2017 private share placement and a possible IPO in Lagos. The fleet is expected to double to 50+ by 2025.  On order are 2 B747-8i and 7 B787-9s. The long-haul network is expected to grow beyond today’s London and New York. Current fleet of 25 is mainly B737-700/800 and two leased A330-200s 
A temporary problem in this country which is rich in oil production but not in refining capability  has been going fuel shortages which has meant a trimming of the domestic network. 
Binter Canarias (Canary Islands) has ordered 6 new ATR72-600s. The present  fleet is 18 ATR72-500/600 and 2 wet-leased CRJ900s. The current Las Palmas based network includes Spain, Portugal, Senegal and Mauritania. 

Camair-Co. SAA Technical has seized a B737 undergoing maintenance in S Africa due to outstanding debts.  On 30th September the company abandoned Paris, its sole long haul destination.  The new Board Chairman has said the focus will now be on strengthening domestic routes.  Boeing Consulting has proposed a five year ‘stimulus package’ of network and fleet renewal involving the purchase and lease of up to 15 new aircraft. How they justify this and what the aircraft would profitably is unclear especially as the state-owned carrier is currently bankrupt and overstaffed.

Colombe Airlines (Burkina Faso) Originally launched in Oct2013, operations resumed after on 1st November on a single domestic route after a twelve month gap. Ouagadougou-Bobo- Dioulasso, is now flown with an ATR72-200.  Bamako, Abidjan and Accra are potential additional points. 

Cronos Airlines (Eq Guinea) is wet leasing a single A319-100as an addition to its fleet of a Bae146 and 2 ERJ135s. It flies regionally from Malabo to Douala, Yaounde, Lagos and Pt Harcourt

Mauritania Airlines International  has accepted a new B737-800 to add to its existing pair of B737-500s, a single 737-700 two B737-800s and an Emb145. 


EgyptAir has ordered 8 B737-800s from Boeing. Finance and delivery dates are uncertain due to Government flotation of the Egyptian Pound. 

 Moscow services are being relaunched in December. 

Libyan Airlines launched the A320 on the short cross border coastal sector between Misurata and  Alexandria on 21st October.  
Libyan Wings. Current operations are international only from Tripoli to Istanbul and Tunis, both at 90%+ load factors.  Adding two A321s to the current fleet of 2 A319s in early 2017 is being considered.  Khartoum, Casablanca and Alexandria are probable next destinations. Libya remains on the EU ‘blacklist’. 
Royal Air Maroc. Subject to Government  approval the airline expects to conclude a minority share sale to Qatar Airways. This comes at a time when neighbour Etihad is looking to shed or alter some of its investments in unprofitable European airlines.


Emirates in what looks like a tightening of returns on spend has hinted at frequency and network cuts in African routes due to slowing regional GDP growth and local currency problems.

KLM returns to Freetown and Monrovia in March 2017 after a gap of nearly 20 years, operating a thrice weekly A330-200 .

Qatar Airways launched a Doha-Windhoek route on October 4th followed by Doha-Luxor on 30th October.

 Libreville and Douala are next on the airline’s Africa list for 2017.

Turkish Airlines is hoping to develop China-Africa tourism to help offset this year’s drop in inbound tourism to Turkey.

Three times weekly A330 services to Seychelles started on 30th October and Zanzibar is slated for December.


AFRAA is calling for governments to release airline blocked funds, estimated at US$2bn, as a result of hard currency shortages. Nigeria, Angola, Egypt and Sudan are named.  

Kenya 2016 visitor arrivals, January to August show a 17% increase on 2015 but arrivals continue to be 29% lower than 2011 levels. The large European tourism producing countries continue the significant 5 year falls in volumes: Italy 66%, Germany 60% and the UK 50%. The high end of the market focused on the game parks continues to do well but many of the much higher volume lower yield beach holiday travellers have been frightened away by travel advisories and concerns about possible insecurity along the Kenyan coast.

Nigeria. The development of a new national carrier continues to be a Government objective and the appointment of a transaction adviser is imminent.  The new carrier would be joint government/private sector funded. It's not a new task. Nigeria has struggled with the creation of a well run and profitable national airline ever since the breakup of West African Airways in the late 1950s. Starting with a subcontracted management protected from government and any other intervention by a strong and incorruptable Nigerian chairman would be a good option. Nothing has ever worked better than that for  Kenya Airways' revival and privatisation. The choice of a source would be important as would be guarantees that first rate people were assigned to the contract.

South Africa The Government has appointed consultants, Bain and Co, to report on the structure and performance of state-owned SAA, SA Express and LCC Mango. The possible sale of minority stakes has been indicated but as mentioned above that may not be attractive to potential investors who don’t want to be subject to government agendas or whims.

Tunisia expects to sign an Open Skies Agreement with the EU before the end of the year, to become effective in April 2017. Morocco has such an agreement which has enabled EU low cost carriers to start operations.

Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls airport upgrade including a new domestic terminal is complete and was opened on 18th November. It was funded and built by China, another “to be paid for” item on the lenders’ tab.

-John Williams

 December 2016

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

BA Christmas Cheer

At the end of Unite's last BA cabin crew strike the airline pretty much had the union up against the wall and could have achieved pretty much  all it wanted in terms of new flexibility and the ability to compete with the new low cost competition at home and abroad. Instead in a tender hearted belief that a soft deal and its accompanying goodwill would achieve lasting harmony it largely let the union off the hook and just walked away from major key needs , primarily pocketing an agreement to create a new group of lower paid cabin staff. These were to be labelled Mid Fleet and were/are to operate entirely separately from existing groups and never fly together or on the same routes. Female staff were to wear hats, something which existing people have long refused to do. Mid Fleet wasn't a massive achievement as it didn't address the improved flexibility needed right across all cabin crew and it added complexity to rostering and in times of service disruption.. It was a small  takeaway for a management which seemed happy to throw away its winning hand.. Those who knew more about industrial relations wondered how long any sweetness and light would last.

The new Mid Fleet has gradually grown and is now around 15% of BA's total cabin crew, leaving it quite some way to go before it produces the real savings. Its people are generally but not entirely younger, tend to see the role as a short term one rather than a lifetime career. Most are enthusiastic about the job. Indeed in many cases love it and the life style.That is not good news to any union. Happy, motivated people who accept their terms and conditions and just want to get on with their job are not good picket lines fodder,- or payers of union dues.

It is no surprise therefore that Unite is back in the strike business and being in festive mood is calling its Mid Fleet people out on 25th and 26th December. Talks at ACAS may or may not produce a fudge but despite the sensitive time of year BA should be careful about any short term fixes/bungs in the name of goodwill. They can be very expensive and mortgage the future. Already on the shorthaul network it looks as if the IAG future could be Vuelling on a BA codeshare rather than BA mainline.

The Unite leadership chose a Christmas walkout for its media value. Its disregard of the effect on the passengers is matched by its disregard for its members' Christmas arrangements as well. Many of the affected cabin crew will have made arrangements based on their rosters. Some who expected to be back home will now not be and others who had planned to be away, and have family members with them, will now be at home.. Strikers will of course lose pay and allowances for not turning up. the union leadership meanwhile will lose no pay at all. Nor will they have their holiday arrangements disrupted. Once more the footsoldiers take the pain while their leaders relax as planned. No pain for them. There never is.  

Meanwhile BA has cooked up something festive for the customers who do fly (the majority). If carrying excess baggage full of prezzies for the awaiting friends and relations they are likely to get an exceptionally warm welcome from check-in staff . There is an incentive programme which rewards the most prolific collectors of excess baggage revenue. To Fly to Collect.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Fastjet's parrot asks for more nuts,- and time.

FastJet ,the one with the cheerful parrot on their tails, the intended importer of low cost air travel across the African continent, is looking for money again. The Chairman has joined a number of former executives in heading for the exit.

What's going on here? 

It's a long story and deserves a full writeup but for the moment here are a few points to ponder:

- Although launched with pan-African ambitions to swiftly spread EasyJet type low cost air travel across the continent, Fastjet has never been and has never been seen as an African airline. Hence to established carriers and many governments it has been viewed as a threat with few offsetting benefits. Even Tanzania, the main beneficiary so far, has cautiously kept its national airline, Air Tanzania. on life support just in case.

-One has to wonder if, prior to launch, its people ranged the continent far and wide, not on escorted besuited visits but as ordinary people and businessmen to take in what they saw and understand some of the realities. Did they walk the streets, explore what was for sale and at what prices in shops, sit in cafes and restaurants ,looking at and listening to what was going on around them? Did they sample local transport, see where people were going. why and what prices, try out airline products and airports, talk to a wide range of local business people of all races and knock on the doors of transport ministers? Did they get to understand who and what they would be dealing with and develop the strategies and tactics of how to approach each? Did they get to grips with local distribution and banking channels (Kenya's mobile phone based banking system is the world leader. Elsewhere credit cards can be rarity.). Did they then visit key decision makers regularly and often? (One offs are pointless. People like to deal with others they get to know and see often). Did they identify the right people to trust and to guide them through the complexities of getting established? 

- We don't know the answers to the above questions but some signs are not encouraging. Having a HQ in UK's leafy Surrey didn't exactly say "We are an African airline". Johannesburg is better but South Africa isn't seen by countries north of its borders as being really part of Africa. Maybe the airline's aspirations will shrink for a time mainly into the South African market and then  re-emerge with more thrusts northward, but that's a far cry from the bold original vision and timescales.They were right in saying that the continent has huge untapped markets but maybe they misunderstood what form these come in, where they are and how to fully access them? ( With a few exceptions a multiplicity of small pockets is more likely than a plethora of high volume several times a day operations).  They have been highly innovative in many ways but new CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has a huge task in stabalising the business and getting it moving forward again. He needs the next cash injection to get the headroom and time to do that. We wish him well.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Emirates v Qatar. An Economy Comparaison.

Andrew Woodrow writes....

I was recently the lucky winner of a  business week in Cape Town, travelling in Economy and via the Gulf as follows:

Copenhagen – Doha, Qatar Airways 787-8
Doha – Cape Town, Qatar Airways 777-300ER
Cape Town – Dubai, Emirates 777-300ER
Dubai – Copenhagen, Emirates A380

Back in the 1980's a Malaysian newspaper cartoon parodied their national carrier's advertising. An Economy passenger was asked the familiar question "Chicken or Beef?" "Lobster" he replied, gaining a sympathetic smirk in reply. "I'm sure I saw it in their ads" was his thought.

Fast forward thirty years and it's still happening. The Gulfies make a great deal about their business class, often to the point where economy class passengers can feel a little duped. On my previous EK A380 flight, I overheard a fellow economy class passenger asking where the famous bar was. ‘Well it’s a very full flight,’ said the stewardess tactfully, ‘so we are asking everyone to stay in their own area of the aircraft today’. And every other day, she might have added.

Anyway on this trip I got to compare the less-highly advertised economy class of each airline, and a few different aircraft types. Here's how it looked.

-          As a window seat man (see other articles), the 787 wins hands down. What windows! They are huge and, if on the sunny side of the aircraft (something I try to avoid), you can dim them electronically, as if the entire window had sunglasses on. Great! This contrasts particularly with the A380, where I have an overwing window seat on the lower deck. Next time you see an A380, take a look at the wing root. Designed for a potentially much stretched model, it is massive – both in terms of a much longer chord than any other airliner, and an initial steep dihedral. So the broad wing sticks up as well as out, and flattens out towards the engines. Add to that the thickness of the hull, which is at least twice as deep as on a ‘normal’ aircraft and the window feels like a bigger version of the time you were 6 and made a toilet roll telescope. Anyway I can pretty much see wing only from seat 62A. Every now and then a tantalizing sliver of mountain is visible between the leading edge and the horizon but that’s about it. And no, it’s not the same looking at the outside camera view on TV.

-          Seat next. You have more space on Emirates, and the seats are more comfortable. Even the 3 – 4 – 3 configured 777 beats the 3 – 3 - 3 787. Seats are also wider on the A380 than the 777, and on both the Emirates aircraft you get more legroom that the Qatar ones,– and better IFE.

-          Service – Emirates wins on that too. Both airlines are pretty good, with multi-national cabin crew delivering a pleasant service, but Qatar’s just feels a little more forced, and Emirates seem to come round a little more often in the gaps between meals with drinks and nibbles.

-          General note ,– the A380 is massive, and proportionately stable. Both the A380 and 787 are noticeably quieter than the 777, the A380 in particular. The A380 is let down by its tunnel-like windows (everywhere) and massive wing (if you are a window seat person sitting near the wing). The 787 has great windows and a very impressive, curving wing that doesn't  block the view too much. Overall though I like the 777 best. It’s big enough to iron out the bumps, you can see out nicely, and maybe it’s just because I have spent so many days in the back of one, they just feel right.

-          Internet ,– pretty slow on both, even if you pay the US$1 for an upgrade on Emirates. Just as well all I had to do was send a single, text only email.

-          Hub. Both Dubai and Doha are modern, well equipped, fairly soul-less terminals (It is rare to find a modern airport terminal with soul) with loads of shopping and few places to eat. Of the two, Doha gets my vote, although its layout is moderately confusing. Dubai has a simple layout, being effectively long and thin once you are airside, and if you don’t mind taking the efficient shuttles between zones it’s fine. But the walkways are too narrow for the volume of passengers, and there are too many seemingly conflicting flows of people. You are forever bumping into migration-like crowds going the other way. And as at any airport where there is consistently a queue for the gents,  a few more of them would be more than welcome.

-          Schedule. Copenhagen is one of Emirates’ relatively few ‘single daily service’ destinations, while Qatar does a double daily. That means Emirates’ downside is the connection in Dubai always being at an anti-social time. Southbound it’s about midnight and northbound you need to be in Dubai by 6am. On Qatar the double daily does at least give a choice of schedules and transfer times, depending on the final destination.

So who wins? Overall Emirates, though Qatar has a better hub, a better schedule from Copenhagen, – though this doesn’t apply to many of their common  destinations where Emirates has the frequency.  For window gazers Qatar’s 787s are the best. 


Thursday, 17 November 2016

World Travel Market -London November 2016

 The dogs have barked and the caravan has moved on…  London’s World Travel Market 2016 is over.  Exhibitors and visitors have returned home to Aruba and Zanzibar and everywhere in between. Silence has descended on the vast exhibition space of the Excel Centre in London’s docklands area.

We have been going for many years but somewhere in the back of the mind there’s been a growing sense of unease recently. Something to worry about..or not?

The numbers are impressive.  50,000 attendees and 5,000 exhibitors is more than a village fete.  Nearly 200 countries represented makes it a truly global rather than regional happening.  And to argue that the £2.5 billion of generated business immaterial would be mean-spirited.

But is everything quite as it seems?  The 2016 statistics have yet to be tallied and circulated but were the crowds slightly less this year? – and were they the key decision makers and buyers? Were the exhibitors on their stands experiencing unfamiliar quiet periods during the day?  This year the opening days were reduced by 25%, to just 3 days, apparently at the request of exhibitors.  There is no doubt that the old 4th day was very much a ‘preparing to fly home day’.  2014 is quoted as being the busiest year.

In the 34 years since WTM London opened its doors in 1982 the travel world and its means of marketing and distribution has changed enormously.  Global travel, in its many forms, has blossomed.  The nature of today’s travel business and the enabling technology was unimaginable all those years ago.  WTM 1982 was initiated to bring tour companies and ground operators together in a world dependent on telex communications.

The question now is whether WTM has peaked and entered a slow but steady decline?   Are the costs now causing small operators from, say, Malawi to stay away?  Such exhibitors are also faced with an escalating number of similar events.  There is WTM Africa in Cape Town, Ndaba in Durban and the grand-daddy ITB in Berlin all to be considered.  The costs for each are high in terms of stand rental, travel, accommodation and time away from the business.  Perhaps larger operators are now asking the same question in readiness for a similar decision.  In earlier years British Airways and many major airlines were well represented but now apart from the Gulf contingent most have gone.  Glitzy Etihad is the latest departee.

But don’t expect the Excel Centre to look empty next year. The reasons for exhibiting and attending are many. Not least is to check out new niche arrivals. For the first time in 14 years, Sudan returned to exhibit this year. The industry is dynamic and new products are always there to be launched.  And however instantaneous digital communication has become traditional face to face meetings are a powerful business generator. WTM is also an impressive shop window on the world and the travel opportunities on offer.  

The peak may have been 2014 but demand is likely to remain high for a few years yet even if it is becoming more UK centric. Having said that, the UK is and will remain a very large, growing and competitive market with its own distinctive characteristics. WTM is therefore far from a spent force but it does need to take stock of where it’s going and revitalise some of the formula and how it presents itself. It can’t afford to become the equivalent of a funfair in the age of the theme park.


14 Nov 2016

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Trumps-for who?

America's big three legacy airlines may be rubbing their hands in anticipation. Could Mr Trump's arrival mean that their dreams of heavy governmental protectionism be about to come good?  President Obama had made it clear he wasn't interested in their pleas of woe about the Gulf airlines and others. Their demands that the intruders be cut back so "to establish a level playing field" had  produced only stifled yawns from the White House. They just weren't interesting. The dusty legacies' aspirations for foreign airlines' to be cut back to operating  only the routes, frequencies and capacities identical to those flown by US carriers cut no ice. For many routes,- and US airports that would have meant zero long haul international flights. Americans and foreigners alike would have to go back to hubbing over the major US international airports and connecting at the other end  to any points (ie most of the world) not served by a US carrier. There will now be hopes among the big three that a protectionist Trump will be more sympathetic to them, disruptive though it would be business and leisure travel.

The brighter reality is that lobbying against this would be Boeing, especially with its hub busting 787 and new 777x aircraft to sell, and the US airports who would lose their prized direct international links to the world. There would also be significant American job losses and local economic downturns, things the new President would find politically difficult. It was after all the historic destruction of blue collar jobs that swung a lot of votes for him.

It is not all over for the current fairly liberal traffic rights regime. Panic,-and celebrations by the big three,- can be delayed. Wakeful watching and well targeted and argued lobbying focusing on the benefits for ALL of America will be the key battlegrounds.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Flying kites of doom muddy Brexit.

Politicians, business people with vested interests, media pundits and others catching the mood of the moment are flying more speculative kites about possible effects of Brexit than there are aircraft in the European skies.

The latest bit of alarmism comes in doom laden warnings that with the end of the European open sky air services between the UK and Europe could collapse. The Times relates " outside of open skies Britain would have to negotiate new complicated bilateral arrangements in which UK airlines can fly to Europe and vice versa. Complicated?.Really? Bilateral air service agreements are the general norm worldwide. They were in place between the UK and European countries for years before open skies and  largely worked well, despite some inbuilt protectionist tendencies.  No agreements?  Back to pre World War 2 and the ferries? We really don't think so. Routes to the UK and London in particular are the most profitable in most EU airlines' shorthaul portfolios They aren't going to let their governments sever the links in a game of political fisticuffs. New point to point bilaterals between the UK and European countries if kept simple should be easy enough to establish in days or at most weeks, not months. The UK for its part could ,- and should,-just declare open skies.

There could be a problem for British airlines which fly within the EU but solving the legality of that should not be difficult either by the establishment of  European subsidiaries or by reciprocal agreements. Easyjet is the big British player in this market and will have the most furrowed brows. IAG, whose cash cow BA is already a Spanish registered company despite its Head Office being in the UK, only flies intra European services with its Spanish based Vueling brand. To keep BA's UK rights legal IAG may have to spin it off again as a UK company but again that should be manageable without taking it totally out of the group.

Meanwhile a certain ardently Europhile Irishman, was yesterday lamenting the possible complications of Brexit and calling the whole affair "a shambles". That's easy enough to say especially as these are very early days in a two+ year process. It gets the headlines but the time might be better spent for all businesses, especially airlines and the tourism industry, to stop wailing about disaster scenarios and get on with plans to extract the best from what is after all only a return to the status quo ante. Let's not forget that the UK already had Europe's strongest and most diverse airline industry well before it joined the EU on January 1st 1973. Time for calm on the boardroom flight decks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

More on the Kenya Airways fleet....and future.

Further to our latest African Roundup's coverage of ongoing goings on in Kenya Airways the airline's excellent in-flight magazine Msafari gives more clarity on the current fleet plus the leasing out of the midlife 777-200s and  brand new leased-300s declared surplus to requirements.

Firstly the in-service fleet , 35 aircraft,  now consists of:

7   B787-8     Configuration  30J/204Y. Total 234
8   B737-800  Configuration 16J/129Y. Total 145
2   B737-700  Configuration 16J/100 Y. Total 116
15 EMB 190  Configuration  12J/84Y Total     96

This leaves aside the 2 leased out B787-8s, 2 sold and 2 parked (?)  B 777-200s and 3 leased out B777-300s.

Of these :

2 B787-8s are leased to Oman Air for 3 years, returning in 2019.
2 B 777-200s have been sold to Omni Air so are off Kenya Airways' books for ever.
2 B 777-200s do not appear to have been disposed of so are presumably parked awaiting a customer ,in which case they continue to rack up lease charges.
3 B777-300s have been leased to Turkish for 3-4 years so should return in 2019 or 2020.

The airline claims a saving of US$ 7 million a month from the leases but while reducing the cash flow pressure it is not clear whether that gives an overall profit or a loss on the deals. If it's a loss Kenya Airways will of course have to make up the difference to the headline lessors each month. That's called financial drag.

Looking further ahead the airline now has no more aircraft on order. That means the return of the 2 B 787s in 2019 should be welcome and easily absorbed in renewed growth. Painlessly reabsorbing the much bigger and then still only 5 years old B 777-300s means that the airline must by then develop a few of its key routes to keep them busy and full.  With London, Amsterdam and Far Eastern points already on the network that shouldn't on the face of it be too difficult. However if it is the airline will not be well placed to get the best deals for new leases or extensions to the existing ones. Potential customers would be in a strong position to drive down rates on offer. There should be plenty of alternatives available. These are already beginning to appear with Emirates and others rolling over the longest serving members of their fleets. That all gives Kenya Airways strategists, marketing and finance people something to keep before them for the end of the decade. In the meantime the $ 7 million a month ( an unimaginable figure in Kenya's own currency, highest denomination the shilling which needs 100 to buy a dollar or 125 for a UK pound) saving in outgoings will at least relieve the headaches for a while and give some space for the Pride of Africa to get itself together again,- if Kenya's politicians, unhelpful unions and others let it.

Monday, 17 October 2016

African Roundup August September 2106

There’s a lot of turbulence about. Many managements must feel as if they are having the fly through the ITZ several times a day, 365 days a year. Those clear blue skies days of euphoria just don’t seem to come any closer. It’s always a rainy season afternoon with towering cumulus stretching in all directions.

Four airlines are having unhappy times and grappling with plans to achieve profitable futures: Fastjet, Air Tanzania, SAA and Kenya Airways. Some new Boards have been appointed with new Chairs, plus new CEOs. The search is on for “competent” senior management teams.  Where do you look for people who understand what has to be done and are tough enough and have the support to do it? Life at the top of many African carriers, for nationals and imported foreigners alike, tends to be short and too many appointments end in acrimony. History is not in these airlines’ favour. Think Air Senegal, Cameroon Airlines, Virgin Nigeria and Air Afrique.

Fastjet, privately-owned and launched in 2012, is making its first attempt at a reinvention.  At its original launch the vision was of a fast growing Pan-African low cost carrier with a fleet of five A319s rapidly rising LCC style to 35 aircraft. Four years on it hasn’t happened. Profitability has been elusive and cash continues to evaporate.  New CEO, Nico Bezeidenhout, formerly with SAA’s low cost subsidiary, Mango, has decided to move Head Office from Gatwick to Johannesburg. Good up to a point and at least a move in the right direction,- south. It was always absurd to headquarter what was meant to be an African airline 4,000 miles from its target markets. Blending with the landscape is important on the continent. Ask tribesmen how they avoid predators. Not by taking them head on other than as a last resort. Location shows commitment for a start. Johannesburg, very much in Bezeidenhout’s recent comfort zone, isn’t the answer though. Africa north of the Limpopo views South Africa warily. To many it’s a very different country which hasn’t quite “got” the real world of sub Saharan Africa. Nairobi, so far the toughest nut for the Airline to crack, would have been a better bet.

The shrinkage of the fleet and the size of aircraft are hardly a dramatic breakout back into the original dream. So where now? Using EMB190s in lieu of the A319s, plus trimming the network and employee numbers are fine but the current stall in volume growth, falling load factors and rising disaffection amongst passengers,– 25% now say they would not recommend the airline to others,- is a serious concern. Recent poor punctuality and reliability are to blame.

Smallest of the four and very different is state-owned Air Tanzania.  For several years the operating fleet has been a single Bombardier Dash8-300 serving a small number of domestic points, probably kept alive by government as an insurance against foreign owned Fastjet or PrecisionAir leaving the scene.  Competing against these two its continued existence has otherwise been an anomaly. In the private sector it would have long since disappeared. The arrival of 2 new, Government-owned, Q400s does reinforce it though and promises an expansion of their domestic network and increased frequencies. The new Chairman and CEO have been given 6 months to deliver positive results but reality is probably that the operation will continue for the same reasons as before even if it does need ongoing financial “supplements”.

SAA’s revival provides the biggest challenge.  Government, as owner, has yet again stepped in with a financial lifeline. Technically bankrupt it has been awarded a further US$350m in guarantees. Yet another new Board has been appointed.  Controversially the previous CEO, Dudu Myeni, has been appointed as Chair. A new senior management team is to be formed with a “clear role” for day-to-day running of the business in an attempt to limit interference from the Board.  Installing a new management team will not be easy.  “Competent talent” is unlikely to be attracted to a business in such dire straits.  Almost a dozen previous incumbents have resigned in the past year. Meanwhile the airline pushing to reduce its flight deck costs. This could be interesting to eager recruiters from the Gulf in particular.

Then there’s Kenya Airways. Like Fastjet it’s visions of ever rolling expansion to make it into Africa’s international hub airline of choice have come to a juddering halt. “The Pride of Africa “ is looking a bit deflated. The 777s have gone. The four -200s were the right size and successful. The recently acquired -300s were far too large. Why were they ordered?   Now a couple of the ideally sized 787-8 haves been leased out, leaving the airline with a wide bodied fleet around the same size it was ten years ago. Kenya’s parliamentarians talk excitedly of “wrestling back control “ from 27 % shareholder KLM who’ve always exhibited a remarkable lack of control of it anyway. Also under attack are KLM’s allegedly unsatisfactory commercial agreements which appear to govern some aspects of pricing on Kenya Airways European routes (Amsterdam, Paris, London). Beyond that there has always almost inexplicably been little sign of KQ/KL codeshares which could have put the KL designator on routes radiating out of Nairobi. Similarly, other than on the Nairobi route, KLM’s own direct African operations have never carried KQ codes. Some, an increasing number, compete head on with Kenya Airways hubbing operations over Nairobi. Now the MP’s are demanding a full review of how the airline, initially consistently profitable its privatization after has come to its recent loss making state. Fingers are pointed at the previous management who no doubt can now expect a few unwelcome phone calls and maybe public appearances. MPs are reported as being about to block any further rescue funds for the airline until CEO Mbuvi Ngunzi and some other senior officials have been removed. All very well, but who is going to, or even want to, replace them? There is no news of what Deloittes’ 1,000 page report on their forensic audit says or what fruit McKinsey’s, about £ 1.7 million, six month consultancy may have borne or where it points to retrieve the situation and return to a growth agenda. Meanwhile another $50 million of losses have been racked up over the first six months of this year and in a further unraveling of its network hub synergies and ambitions Gaberone and Abuja are to be withdrawn in November.

But there are some brighter spots. Rwandair continues to grow and has taken delivery of the first of two new A330s. Ethiopian is raising its African destination total to 53 with the launch of Windhoek and ASky is to establish a new MRO in Lome.

From the archives … 90 years ago, in 1926, a London conference reported on a future ‘System of Imperial Air Communications’.  It recognised that, in just 6 years since 1920, ‘the commercial aeroplane has proved itself a practical instrument’.  But it firmly believed too that ‘the large airship is required for long distance transport’ once the ‘trying conditions of the tropics’ amongst other unknowns had been overcome.  By 1926 France had linked French Equatorial Africa to Paris and in the Congo SABENA had linked Leopoldville with Elizabethville (Kinshasa and Lumumbashi). For the British an experimental service linked East Africa with Khartoum – but all with rudimentary aircraft, not airships.  The idea of a UK-South Africa route was proposed by combining British and South African developments. One proposal was to offload UK sea mails at Walvis Bay and fly them to Johannesburg and other towns thus speeding delivery by several days. But despite the conference’s clear preference for the airship its entry into regular service never happened.  Perhaps the early catastrophes too deeply affected public perception and the confidence of constructors. And within a handful of years the USA was working on the development of the Boeing 314 transatlantic airliner and the trans-continental and short haul DC 2 and Lockheed Electra derivatives which with their developments were to revolutionise the whole airliner scene and global route maps. Notwithstanding periodic and even now current attempts in the UK to revive the concept, the airship’s brief bright future flickered and stalled as did some early hopes raised by luxurious flying boats which finally died in any credible form circa 1950 when DC4s, Constellations and Handley Page Hermes 4s took over the African routes, thereby winning the battle for landplanes for ever. Not only that but the first jet age, pioneered from 1952-4 by the Comet 1, was about to dawn, starting with the London-Johannesburg route, followed by Air France from Paris to Dakar. When metal fatigue brought all that to a quick halt in April 1954 it was still only 3 years until the Britannia, the world’s first long haul turboprop, was launched into service in February 1957. Again not to the USA but from London to Johannesburg. African routes led the world.

AB Aviation (Comoros) has added a leased B737-200 to its fleet of 2 Emb120s, to be used initially on the Hahaya-Antananarivo route.  Founded in 2013 the privately owned carrier links Hahaya with Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique and Mayotte. 

Air Djibouti is planning a September launch of Djibouti-Addis Ababa services with a B737-400 leased from Cardiff Aviation.  Two BAe146-300s and a B767-200 are to be added before year-end.  Djibouti-London is to be the first longhaul route.

Air Tanzania The Minister of Transport has sacked the CEO and Director of Operations on a charge of sending an unqualified pilot for training on the 2 new Q400s.

Meanwhile the first of 2 new Q400s has arrived followed by the second a few days later. Both aircraft are owned by the Tanzanian Government and leased to the airline.

Ethiopian Airlines is launching twice weekly services to Windhoek via Gaberone on 4th October. Moroni will also come back on-line in November, thrice weekly, via Dar es Salaam.  B737-800s will be deployed on both. Windhoek will be Ethiopian’s 53rd African destination.

 In October the Guangzhou frequency will rise from 7 to 10 weekly and   Chengdu is planned to join the network in summer 2017.

 With an eye to strengthening its position in Africa, Ethiopian is talking to the governments of Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana regarding assistance in launching new national carriers. 

Fastjet Plc new CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has chosen Emb190s to replace A319s.  Three leased A319s are to be returned plus 2 to be sub-leased, by October when the first of 3 wet-leased Emb190s are due. The trimmed Winter 2016-17 flight programme will be flown by the smaller fleet.

Precision Air launched 3 weekly ATRs to Hahaya (Comores)on 27th September. The route was dropped in 2014.
Rwandair launched a long distance turboprop route between Kigali and Cotonou with a Q400 on 2nd September. Abidjan will follow. The delivery of the first of 2 A330s in September marks a new era for the company,- and higher expenditure.


Air Botswana has a new Board but has yet to appoint a new substantive General Manager – 12 months overdue. The renewal of the aging mainly ATR 42-500 fleet is pressing. Unserviceability is growing. A search continues for partners to help fund US$220m for 7 new aircraft while the 2014-15 operating loss was US$ 15.6m.

Air Namibia is to launching a ERJ135 Windhoek-Gaborone-Durban route on 30th October  and dropping Maun from the network.
Congo Airways (DRC) has gained its AOC enabling international operations and possible IATA membership subject to IOSA achievement.  Launch of Kinshasa – Johannesburg, Luanda and Pointe Noire routes are targeted for November.  Douala and Libreville are to follow in 2017.

Congo Airways (DRC) Less than 12 months after start-up the airline has set about reducing staff numbers from 400 to 200.  Current fleet: 2 A320s and 2 Q400s.

LAM has suspended an order for 3 B737-700s placed in March 2014.  First delivery was to have been in November. 
SAA Board member Ms Yakhe Kwinana, head of the Audit and Risk Committee has resigned.
Hong Kong’s regulator has threatened withdrawal of operating rights if financial statements are not submitted by 6th, subsequently extended to 30th,September.
State President Zuma’s Cabinet on 31 August appointed a new Board complete with re-appointment of controversial CEO Dudu Myeni as Chairperson.  The alternative recommendations of Finance Minister Gordhan were over-ridden. He is to meet with all appointees to “provide direction from a shareholder perspective”.
The South African government is facing legal action from the Democratic Alliance Party claiming that current CEO Dudi Myeni is an “unfit and inappropriate” appointment to be the new Board Chairperson. 
SAA To keep the airline flying it has received  a US$ 350 million ‘going concern’ guarantee from Finance Minister Gordhan following his pre-condition  to agreeing to the appointment of a new Board.  A new CEO and senior management team is to be appointed with a “clear role” to run the business day to day, The Board is to set a “clear deadline” for a return to profitability. 2014-15 loss was US$407m and 2015-16 loss US$125m. It’s mounting up so repayment day gets further and further away.Any sign of SAA being allowed to go under? None at all.
SA Expres launched a B737 route linking Johannesburg and Lumumbashi on 26th September. 


Aero Contractors (Nigeria) suspended flying on 1st September.  In February, 60% state shareholder Asset Management Co (AMCON) initiated a forensic financial audit.

Air Annobon (Eq Guinea) plans to relaunch as an LCC and is seeking partners to provide aircraft.  Current only a single route, Malabo – Bata is flown using a solo BAe RJ85. With more of these robust and capable aircraft becoming available as they are replaced by EMB and shortly Bombardier C-Jets we can expect to see more find homes in Africa. BAe are happy to provide support packages or guarantees for a further ten years at least.

Arik Air suspended operations pending renewal of aircraft insurance. Flights resumed the following day.
ASKY (Togo) has announced plans to create an MRO and training facility in Lome alongside shareholder Ethiopian Airlines. This mirrors Ethiopian’s on-going developments in Addis.

Camair-Co (Cameroon) Despite CEO Jean-Paul Sando revealing operating losses of US$2.6 million a month and $ 52 million of accumulated debt he talks of possible launch of Brussels and Dubai flights before the end of the year. These will replace the sensibly axed Paris operations which must have struggled against Air France competition.

First Nation Airways (Nigeria) temporarily suspended all operations between 1st and 18th September to resolve unspecified fleet maintenance difficulties.

Fly Sao Tome is a proposed start up with a single SAAB 340 and maybe F28-100s.  Regional destinations are quoted as being Principe, Douala and Libreville. Flying one-off fleets a long way from other operators or manufacturers spares holdings can mean low lease costs but some support difficulties.

Mauritania Airlines International has ordered a new B737-800 from Boeing.


Tunisair has switched its order for an A330 and 4 A320s to one for 5 A320neo.


Emirates has rescheduled its Abuja-Dubai services via Accra for re-fuelling due to Nigeria’s fuel shortages.
Mahan Air (Iran) has applied for a Scheduled Foreign Operator Permit to enable twice weekly Teheran – Johannesburg services.

Qatar Airways is launching the Doha-Windhoek route on 4th October.

TAP The delayed launch of Lisbon-Guinea Bissau flights is now scheduled for December.  The 2014 Ebola outbreak disrupted earlier plans. Frequencies are also to be increased to Dakar, Praia and Sao Tome.
Turkish Airlines plans upping frequencies to double-daily on Khartoum, Addis and Mogadishu plus starting Harare services in late 2016 / early 2017.


Nigeria Two problems dominate. The jet fuel shortage continues to bite forcing some carriers to refuel abroad, eg, Ethiopian and Emirates’ use of Accra, plus the freezing of trapped sales revenue remittances.  The weakness of the Naira is the linked cause of both.   

Rwanda’s  government has now signed for the construction of new Bugusera Airport, 25kms from Kigali, to begin in mid-2017.  Portuguese company '’Mota Engineering and Construction Africa' will procure finance, construct and operate the airport for 25 years with a further 15 year option. China missed that one.

Finally, Tanzania’s Government has taken a step backwards in the development of regional tourism by withdrawing from the common East African visa scheme. This means more cost,- and hassle,- in travelling between Kenya and Tanzania, renewing a protectionist wrangle that has been going on since the collapse of the original East African Community in the 1970s when all but three or four road border crossings between Tanzania and Kenya were closed. Prime target was the direct road linking the Mara and the Serengeti , converting a journey of a few hundred yards into one of several hundred miles. Tanzania has always felt that it was short changed by tour groups tending to enter the area via Kenya rather than flying direct into Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro. The resentment runs deep.

John Williams