Senegal Airlines, the West African country’s relaunched airline, is in talks with Airbus to buy around half a dozen aircaft including two A330 long-haul jets, its chief executive told Reuters.
Such a deal would most probably be based on a previous tentative plan — announced in 2009 but never implemented — to order six aircraft worth US$750 million.
Senegal Airlines began operations last month using two leased Airbus A320-family aircraft after the previous national carrier collapsed last year.
The airline also wants a better deal for planes it had planned to buy directly from Airbus. At the Dubai air show in 2009, it announced a provisional order for four medium-haul A320 aircraft and two A330 wide-body planes.
“We went initially with leased planes and at the same time we are still in negotiations with Airbus to improve the terms
(of a plane purchase) and we are hopeful a good conclusion can be reached in the coming weeks and months,” Chief Executive Edgardo Badiali said in a telephone interview.
A spokeswoman for Airbus declined comment.
Although the A330 is built for flights such as the 4,200-km trip between Senegal’s capital Dakar and Paris, Badiali said the airline’s expansion would be more cautious than first envisaged, focusing initially on serving destinations in West Africa.
“We are trying to do this step by step, not make the adventure of flying immediately to Paris. It is a very risky game to go in from the very beginning, and the big brothers in the industry normally don’t like a small mushroom to grow.”
Badiali also said he was confident a solution would be found to a row between Senegal and Belgium over landing rights for Brussels Airlines, but stressed it was a matter for governments.
Last month, Belgium said it would recall its ambassador to Senegal after the West African country withdrew the rights of Belgian national carrier Brussels Airlines to operate flights via Dakar to other African destinations. [ID:nLDE70R14S]
Brussels Airlines, 45 percent owned by Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), has been unable to fly on from Dakar to Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the launch of Senegal Airlines on Jan. 25.
Senegal says its agreement with the Belgian airline only applied as long as there was no Senegalese national carrier.
“We don’t have any problems with Brussels Airilnes coming into Dakar and I think in the near future we do expect to make agreements with different airlines in Europe, and Brussels could be one of them,” Badiali said.
Brussels Airlines was not available for comment.
The affair has a political twist in Senegal because the brainchild of the airline’s revival is Karim Wade, son of the country’s octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade and whose ministry portfolios range from transport to infrastructure.
Karim Wade was once tipped as a future presidential candidate but any such ambitions appear to have been shelved after a poor showing in 2009 municipal elections.
Senegal is seeking to take advantage of its reputation as one of West Africa’s more stable countries by promoting itself as a regional aviation hub.
US planemaker Boeing sees total African passenger traffic growing by an average 5.5 percent a year over the next 20 years, spurring demand for 710 aircraft worth $80 billion.