New African airlines to take to the skies

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Several new airlines plan to take to the African skies later this year, with Nigeria’s First Nation Airways planning to launch as early as March. Mauritius and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also developing their own new airlines.

In Nigeria, First Nation Airways is in the process of receiving its Airline Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The airline plans to begin scheduled flights on the Lagos–Port Harcourt, Lagos–Abuja and Lagos–Kano routes in May.

The Nigerian Business Day records chairman Gbenga Odukoya as saying the airline is being put together by American and Nigerian investors. First Nation Airways has acquired three Airbus A320s on lease and expects another six between May and September this year. The first two were delivered in early April.
“We expect the new airline to play in the league of American domestic airlines and provide exceptional passenger services, the type of which is rare in this part of the world”, an industry source close to the airline told Business Day.

First Nation Airways’ predecessor was Bellview Airline, which ended operations in debt in 2009. Staff from Bellview helped found the new airline.

Late last month Korongo Airlines in the Democratic Republic of Congo said it would ‘soon’ begin operations to serve the domestic Congolese market as well as the African sub-region, PANA Press reports. Korongo Airlines was launched in December 2009 and registered as a company in April last year to replace the stagnant airDC project. The airline is a partnership between Groupe Forrest International and Brussels Airlines. Korongo will be launched with US$14 million of investment, including US$3 million for a hangar.

Korongo plans to recruit 500 employees and has hired 100 already. In a statement Korongo said the airline would be a benchmark business, assisting in securing Congolese airspace and contributing to a gradual removal of limitations put in place by the European Union on Congo’s aerospace sector. At the moment, all Congolese airlines are banned from flying to Europe. Although Korongo has not got off the ground, it has been automatically blacklisted by the European Union. However, Korongo said it would fly under a Belgian certificate.

Korongo Airlines’ fleet will comprise one Boeing 737 and two BAe 146s. Maintenance will take place in a newly built hangar at Lubumbashi International Airport.
“The [East Africa] region’s economies are growing robustly and by all indications will continue to do so in the coming years. With a rise in GDP, a corresponding rise in demand for aviation services is to be expected. We see a huge growth potential in the aviation industry as airlines expand and upgrade their fleet,” Jonty Nel, GE Aviation Capital Services senior Vice President and region manager for Middle East, Africa and Russia, told The EastAfrican.

However, he cautioned that, “The lack of appropriate managerial and legal systems hinders many airlines from having access to leasing new aircraft, and they are thus consigned to using old, outdated and often perilous aircraft.”

Meanwhile, Skipper Sky in Mauritius is currently seeking partners to develop its low cost flights from Reunion to Mauritius. It is seeking to acquire three Airbus aircraft, which will be leased for six to 12 years. These will be two A320s configured with 180 seats, and an A330 freighter.

Jean Christophe Pothin, who has worked for Air France and Air Mediterranee, is looking for 2.5-5 million euros of funding, according to Mauritius’s News Now.
“I left Airbus to be able to be able to set up this company. I am determined to provide low-cost air tickets over the whole Indian Ocean region and participate in the economic development and emancipation of our overseas territory,” he said last month.



AGI news recently reported that Skipper Sky had reached an agreement with the Tourism Ministry of Mauritius for the launching of the new airline, which aims to cut ticket prices in half from 90 to 60 euros, beating out competition from Air Mauritius and Air Austral.