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New Airline For Africa Before Year End?

Brussels Airlines and Lufthansa look further to Africa

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Jul 08, 2010

ATHENS (eTN) Over the last year, the Lufthansa Group has been focusing increasingly on the African market, as it has been identified as one of the most promising air transport markets. According to IATA, traffic flows from, to, and within Africa still represent only 5.1 percent of the world’s total scheduled revenue passenger-km. But the German air transport giant hopes to capitalize over the next decade on further development in the country.

According to IATA traffic data from 2008, African routes carried approximately 38 million passengers. Boeing forecasts predict Air travel within Africa growing at 6.4 percent per year over the next 20 years, citing among others, GDP growth, as well as geographical challenges and the lack of good roads and railways. For this year, IATA predicts also that African carriers will make a profit of US$200 million.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa launched a communication offensive on its Africa positioning with the hope to attract passengers who traditionally favored flying with Air France to the African continent. The German carrier has linked Africa with Germany since 1956. However, Lufthansa’s interests rose when the airline took over both Swiss and, last year, Brussels Airlines. The group (consisting of Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Bmi) proposed, during the winter of 2009/2010, over 200 flights per week to 31 destinations. For this summer and the coming winter, the Lufthansa group further boosts its network to Africa. On July 5, Brussels Airlines opened four new destinations from Brussels to Accra, Cotonou, Lome, and Ouagadougou.

In Eastern Africa, Lufthansa has also developed a strong partnership with Ethiopian Airlines with codeshare flights to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania via Ethiopian Airlines’ hub in Addis Abeba. Ethiopian Airlines is now likely to become a member of Star Alliance in the near future.

But the Lufthansa Group wants to play an even more active role in Africa. Through its Belgium affiliate, Brussels Airlines, the group now looks to invest into a new carrier based in Africa.

“We are well positioned as we benefit from the decades-long experience from our predecessor Sabena. We always accompany the development of air transport to Africa, and we seriously study the opportunity to create a regional carrier in Kinshasa,” said Erik Follet, executive vice president of network, revenue management, and business development for Brussels Airlines.

Sources within Brussels Airlines mention that the future carrier would be named "Korongo," a Swahili word to describe a migrant bird. Why choose Kinshasa, the capital city of the Congo Democratic Republic (ex-Zaire)?

“This is the third largest country in Africa with a very central position and an important population of almost 70 million,” explained Mr. Follet. And, of course, there is the fact that Belgium used to be the colonial power ruling for 75 years what was then named "Congo-Leopoldville."

Brussels Airlines’s investment is essential to offer a reliable air transport within Africa, which will be able to cover both the central and western parts of the continent.

“We need a feeder carrier with safety and comfort standards similar to European requirements. The airline will first propose domestic connections and then venture on regional routes,” told Mr. Follet.

The new carrier is likely to take off by early 2011.

Brussels Airlines and Lufthansa look further to Africa
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