Friday, 1 October 2021

FlyWestaf eyes up Algerian LCC market

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FlyWestaf moved a step closer to becoming Algeria’s first low-cost carrier on 18 August, when its application for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) was formally received by the North African country’s civil aviation authority.

The start-up is headed by co-founders Chakib Ziani Cherif and Richard Powell, who are proposing to launch domestic passenger services with a fleet of De Havilland Dash 8 Q400s. Capital city Algiers will be the airline’s main operating base, with a secondary hub also being established in Tamanrasset, an oasis city in the far south of Algeria.

Longer-term, the business plan envisages subsidiaries or franchises being set up across West Africa – initially focusing on Gambia, the former British colony that has been without a domestic airline since 2014...

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Interview: Glenn Orsmond, Comair CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 12-13 & cover

It was only two short years ago that Comair, the privately owned South African airline, chalked up its 73rd year of uninterrupted profitability – an achievement without parallel in the airline industry.

To say that the company fell from grace in 2020 would be a dramatic understatement.

Already on-track for its first ever annual loss, Comair unexpectedly ran out of cash in May and collapsed into bankruptcy protection. Its return to the skies in December was only possible after shareholders agreed to write off 99% of their equity in the insolvent airline.

For chief executive Glenn Orsmond, there must have been a temptation to blame everything on covid-19...

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Interview: József Váradi, Wizz Air CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 19-20 & cover

As Europe’s fastest growing low-cost carrier, it should come as no surprise that Wizz Air jumped on the chance to establish a subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi launched operations this year as a joint venture between the Hungarian airline group and ADQ, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund. It is hoping to grab a large slice of the lucrative Gulf market, which has, to date, been relatively inhospitable to low-cost carriers.

Much more surprising was the willingness of Abu Dhabi to partner with Wizz Air in the first place...

Interview: Abdelhadi Mansur, Berniq Airways General Manager

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Libya’s Berniq Airways took to the skies in March with an inaugural service from home base Benghazi to capital city Tripoli.

The new airline, which is named after Princess Berenice II of ancient Egypt, launched operations with a nine-year-old Airbus A320.

Its largest shareholder, Benghazi’s Bank of Commerce & Development, has an opaque ownership structure that includes some public-sector entities. But, with 60% of the airline in private hands, general manager Captain Abdelhadi Mansur said he has no concerns about political interference...

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

How dangerous are aircraft-engine failures?

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There are few things as bone-chilling as the thought of an aircraft engine exploding in mid-flight, particularly if you happen to be in a seat close to the fast-flying debris. Such accidents are exceedingly rare. But two incidents involving engine failures on February 20th—one affecting a passenger plane over Denver, the other a freighter over Meerssen, in the southern Netherlands—have raised worries. What causes an aircraft engine to blow up? And why are these accidents typically not as catastrophic as instinct suggests they should be...

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Why Wizz Air will be a structural winner from the coronavirus pandemic

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In December, nine months after Covid-19 swept around the world – plunging the air transport industry into its worst ever crisis – shares in European low-cost carrier Wizz Air reached an all-time high on the London Stock Exchange.

That the market shrugged off the grim outlook for airlines was no surprise: global indices have bounced back from their March lows as investors, flush with government stimulus, pile into risk assets and growth stock. Low-cost carriers are a compelling bet given their rapid expansion in recent years – fueled by insatiable passenger demand and the inferior cost structures of legacy rivals.

But Europe’s other budget airlines have not fared as well during the crisis. Shares in market leader Ryanair – more than three times the size of Wizz Air – fell short of their all-time-high by 14% during last month’s peak. Hybrid carrier EasyJet failed to come within even 50% of its highest-ever stock price.

For chief executive József Váradi, Wizz Air’s rising fortune in the midst of a global pandemic is recognition of the company’s obsessive focus on cost reduction, scalability and liquidity...

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Interview: George Uriesi, Ibom Air COO

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Before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted that air passenger numbers in Nigeria will rise by 174% over the next two decades.

Its forecast came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the country’s runaway demographics. Nigeria already has the largest headcount of any African nation: 206 million citizens as of last year. With annual growth rates of 2.5%, The Lancet expects it to become the second most populated country in the world by the end of this century.

That will mean overtaking China, whose own population is set to nearly halve during the same period.

Yet, despite its rising fortunes, Nigeria is ill-prepared for the coming boom in aviation. There are currently no domestic airlines strong enough to compete on long-haul routes from the country, meaning the spoils of its growth are largely accruing to foreign operators...

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Time to take aim at shootdowns

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Few readers will be aware that, on 4 th May, an Embraer EMB-120 passenger plane operated by African Express Airways was shot down with the loss of all on-board.

The aircraft was making a humanitarian flight from Baidoa to Berdale in Somalia, carrying medical supplies for the country’s fight against covid-19. It was downed by Ethiopian soldiers who apparently mistook its “unusual” flight path for a “potential suicide mission” by Al Shabaab, the Islamist terror group.

Six people died, including Captain Hassan Bulhan, the son of the airline’s owner.

Four months earlier, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) was blown out of the sky by Iranian soldiers who feared it was a cruise missile launched by the US military. That catastrophe claimed 176 lives.

And six years ago – in what was supposed to be a watershed moment for the airline industry – Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down by Russia-backed rebels over the skies of eastern Ukraine. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) pledged to honour the 298 victims of that tragedy by ensuring that “civilian airliners will never again be brought down by weapons of war”.

Clearly, those words now ring hollow...

Interview: Cosmos Gombura, Sky Navigator Managing Director

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Last year, Cosmos Gombura, the managing director of Sky Navigator, a new South Sudanese airline, drove to neighbouring Uganda to attend a friend’s wedding.

His group made the journey via the Nimule highway – the only tarmacked highway in South Sudan – which stretches from capital city Juba across the Ugandan border to the northern town of Gulu.

Shootings, bombings and sexual assaults are a common occurrence on the notorious road. So, when Gombura’s party became stranded, he inevitably feared the worst...

Friday, 1 May 2020

Interview: Yossrey Abdel Wahab, Nile Air Managing Director

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In recent years Nile Air had seemed to be a rare bright spot in Egypt’s civil aviation market, spreading its wings even as the country grappled with a series of political and security crises.

Former boss Ahmed Aly attributed the airline’s success to its varied customer base of business travellers, pilgrims, tourists, and visiting friends and relatives. Under his watch, the full-service carrier grew its fleet from two to seven aircraft while launching a host of new routes.

But the expansion ground to a halt in 2017 and Aly’s successor, Yossrey Abdel Wahab, is far from convinced about the wisdom of the strategy...