Thursday, 30 January 2014

Comparative advantage

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If you frequently shop for flights online, you will almost certainly be familiar with flight comparison websites like Skyscanner and Kayak. These so-called metasearch engines invite you to key in your desired travel itinerary, before pulling data from other websites—mostly airlines, travel agents and rival search engines—and aggregating the results into a list of available airfares. You can then orbit to the cheapest ticket and click through to the booking website. It’s not rocket science, and with a little flexibility you can usually find a bargain. But metasearch engines are not perfect. They are only as powerful as the data that feed into them, and some airlines refuse to cooperate...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Interview: Abdel Aziz Fadel, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister

Full article in PDF format: page 15-17 & cover

The decision by Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office to relax its travel advice for Egypt could not have come too soon for the North African country, whose leaders are desperate to consign the political upheaval of recent years to history.

Announcing the move on 8 November – two days before Cairo hosted the inaugural Egyptian Development & Strategies of Civil Aviation (EDSCA) conference – Britain said the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada were once again safe for holidaymakers. A fortnight later it added Cairo and the Great Pyramid of Giza to the list of approved destinations, easing the stranglehold on a tourism sector that contributes 12% of Egypt's GDP...

Air smiles at Ethiopian

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Articles about African aviation almost always pay heed to two inescapable truths. The first is the continent's undisputed economic potential, stemming from its vast natural resources and youthful, aspirational workforce. The second, less encouragingly, is the near-insurmountable challenges that prevent airlines from unlocking this potential.

Most politicians concede that civil aviation will play a key role in igniting and sustaining pan-African prosperity. In practice, however, a toxic mixture of bureaucracy, corruption and protectionism keeps much of the industry grounded. African governments still regard flying as a middle-class luxury deserving of heavy taxation. They are also in no hurry to liberalise regulations and bilateral restrictions that protect the status quo for privileged operators.

But there are some exceptions to the rule. State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has grown its turnover by 700% since 2005, and it plans to expand another fivefold by 2025...

Comair on the flight side of the law

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The decision by FastJet to postpone its domestic launch in South Africa – originally slated for July last year – has given Comair breathing space to consolidate its network and prepare for the arrival of four aircraft in 2015.

Chief executive Erik Venter remains sceptical that the low-cost model can been rolled out across Africa, so he is resisting the urge to deploy low-cost unit Kulula in neighbouring countries.

But Comair will have to keep on its toes in the fast evolving competitive landscape. Flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) has just embarked on a long-term turnaround plan – likely to involve elevating the role of low-cost subsidiary Mango – while FastJet has already become a regular fixture in the country, following the launch of its Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg route in October...

Friday, 3 January 2014

South Africa ready for take-off, again

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This should be a good year for South African passengers, according to Business Day, a local newspaper. Following the failure of 1time Airline in 2012, four new low-cost carriers—FastJet, Skywise, FlySafair and a resurrected version of 1time—are poised to enter the market and inject some competition. At present state-owned South African Airways (SAA) and privately owned Comair are the only noteworthy scheduled passenger operators. But Business Day’s outlook may be rose-tinted. Two of the four new entrants have already faced legal challenges. And SAA has made scant progress with a turnaround plan. Until its balance sheet is in better shape, the South African authorities are unlikely to liberalise the sector any further...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Saudi Arabia's accelerated aims

Full article in JPG format:
page 20/21 & page 22

Efforts to boost competition in Saudi Arabia’s duopolistic civil aviation sector are at long last gaining momentum, with both of the kingdom’s upcoming airlines promising to launch services in 2014. But silence by civil aviation authority GACA on the issue of regulatory reform leaves lingering questions about the sector’s long-term prospects.

GACA had originally opened up its skies in December 2006, granting two new carriers – Nas Air and Sama – the right to operate domestic services alongside flag carrier Saudia...