April 2016

Africa’s Flight Plan

Photo of Anna Fernandes

By Anna Fernandes

Anna Fernandes is a transport-focused communications professional, who has worked for major airlines and port management companies for over 20 years.

The 2013 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Aviation Day Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia highlighted three priorities for Africa’s aviation industry –safety, competitiveness and liberalization.  IATA has recognized aviation as a key driver of Africa’s economy, pointing out that the industry supports approximately 6.7 million African jobs and nearly $68 billion in continental GDP.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, says the benefits of aviation infrastructure go much further:  “With a few kilometers of runway, the most remote region can be connected to the global community. And that could mean access to vital sources of healthcare and emergency assistance, jobs selling products in global markets or welcoming tourists; or opportunities for education, exploring the world, or creating business.”

After Japan Airlines, state-owned Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopian), was next to take delivery of Boeing’s flagship 787 Dreamliner in 2012, making it an “Africa First”. As of the date of writing, the airline operates 13 Dreamliners to destinations within Africa and internationally.  As part of Vision 2025 the Ethiopian Aviation Academy, now Africa’s largest training center, aims to educate 4,000 students every year. Ethiopian highlighted its policy of gender equality last November by staffing a flight from Addis Ababa to Bangkok entirely by women, from the flight deck to cabin crew, cabin operations, airport operations, and traffic control. All of this is part of a 15-year strategic plan Ethiopian calls Vision 2025, through which the airline hopes to “bring Africa together and closer to the world”, says Ethiopian Group CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam.  Already it is one of the continent’s leading carriers.

Kenya Airways have named 2016 as their ‘festival year’, and plans to announce new destinations every month, to coincide with local holidays, including Holi, the festival of colors in Mumbai, the Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong, and the Nuit Blanche extravaganza in Paris. As a leading African airline, Kenya Airways carries approximately three million passengers annually. Its fleet of 41 aircraft, is the youngest in Africa. The airline has worked to expand services at its Nairobi hub Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Terminal 1A. The terminal facility development will increase JKIA’s capacity by 2.5 million passengers per year.

International carriers are also recognizing Africa’s value as gateway airports, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Countries outside of Africa are investing heavily in expansion on the continent, developing existing gateway hubs (those that serve other regional and international markets) at Cape Town, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Voted Europe’s best airline for five years running, Turkish Airlines is bullish on Africa. With a growing number of code-sharing operations (partnership with Royal Air Maroc), they currently service 50 African destinations including recent additions Cotonou (Benin), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Maputo (Mozambique), Durban (South Africa) and Antananarivo (Madagascar). According to Samil Karakas, a Vice President of the airline, Turkish now offers more origin-to-destination pairs to Africa than any other airline outside the continent.  In March, Turkish announced plans to increase the number of routes and flights to and from Nigeria, and is expected to begin flights from Istanbul to the Zambian capital of Lusaka. Inc

Etihad Airway’s new twice-weekly service to Rabat, which commenced this January, marks the airline’s second destination in Morocco, after existing daily service to Casablanca. Also from the UAE, Emirates Airlines, which currently serves 27 African destinations, is strategically focused on growing its investments in its fleet in Africa from $7 billion today to $12 billion within a few years.

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