Camair-Co, Cameroon’s rebranded and relaunched Cameroon Airlines began operations yesterday with an inaugural flight from Cameroon to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
Cameroon Airlines Corporation’s (Camair-Co’s) Boeing 767-300ER flew from its base in Douala via Cameroon’s capital Yaounde to France at 10:30 am local time after a brief ceremony at the airport, which was presided over by the Governor of the Littoral Region Fai Yengo Francis, CRTV reports.
The Minister of State Minister of Transport, Bello Bouba Maigari, representing the Prime Minister of Cameroon, presided over the official launching ceremony yesterday.
The airline succeeds the defunct Cameroon Airlines and has a fleet of one Boeing 767 and one 737-700, but its fleet will soon expand to four aircraft.
In 2009 the government of Cameroon commissioned Lufthansa Consulting to advise the country on setting up a new airline. Lufthansa Technik provides maintenance for Camair-Co’s fleet for an initial contract period of two years.
The airline plans to serve international and domestic destinations, including Douala to Maroua and Garoua in Cameroon. Internationally it will serve Paris and N’Djamena in Chad. It will also expand to Bangui in the Central African Republic, Brazzaville in Congo and Dakar in Senegal.
Camair-Co’s preceding entity was banned from European skies in 2005 due to maintenance and technical problems, but van Elk has said that it has been declared fit to fly.
Camair-Co’s general manager Alex Van Elk said yesterday that the airline would also target the Chinese markets in an effort to get more business. Van Elk said by the end of June, “We shall be flying regularly between Cameroon and Paris. We’re beginning with local flights tomorrow [Tuesday], expanding to the west and central African sub-regions, then to Dubai. By the end of this year, we’ll extend to Johannesburg and later to China.”
Van Elk left Nigeria’s Arik Air to take the charge of CamairCo last year.
Cameroon is benefiting from strong ties with China and the launch of the airline coincided with a five day visit by Chinese Minister of State Administration for Industry and Trade, Zhou Bohua.
Camair-Co was created in 2006 from the defunct national carrier Camair, which went bankrupt due to poor management and government interference, Dow Jones newswire reports. It had more than 70 billion central African francs (US$151 million) of debt. Several top executives are facing court trials as part of Cameroon’s national ‘Sparrow Hawk’ anti-corruption drive. They are being accused of embezzling more than XAF118 billion (US$248 132 million) of the company’s funds and assets.
Camair-Co employs 220 people, including 24 pilots, but will employ around 450 in the future.