Year 2017 has been full of excitement and optimism for the African aviation scene on several fronts.
The continent has had its fair share of entrants and exits in equal measure, safety records showed low accidents and incident rates, several airports have managed facelifts, expansion and new aviation infrastructure projects.
Most aviation forums on the continent have been drumming up the “Africa Open Skies” message, which should see more movement of people across borders and boost trade.
Aviation regulations require that pre-flight safety briefings and demonstrations be conducted to explain interalia; conditions for use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs).
What are PEDs?
Any piece of lightweight electrically-powered equipment is a PED. This includes toys, cellular phones, e-readers, tablets, laptops, voice recorders, camcorders, MP-3 players, watches, shavers, hearing aids, pace makers and blood glucose meters.
Airlines are in a race for accolades. Punctuality, meals, luxury, on board entertainment, flight duration, Wi-Fi connectivity, crew composition, profitability and high safety ratings are achievements that will get any airline chest-thumping.
On 6th February 2017, the aviation industry was inundated with news of a claim to the longest flight. Qatar Airways flight QR 921 flew from Auckland to Doha in a time of 17 hours and 40 minutes.
Three weeks later, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Air India’s flights AI 173 (Delhi-San Francisco via the Pacific Ocean) and AI 174 (San Francisco-Delhi via the Atlantic Ocean), were operated by an all-female crew, making it the first time for an all-female crew to fly around the globe in a combined time of 26 hours.
On March 8, the world marked International Women’s Day with media focus on women achievements, accompanied by calls for gender equality that are usually voiced on such occasions.
In the aviation industry, airlines went out of their way to showcase the female professionals in their fold, particularly singling out the few working in traditionally male-dominated departments like flight operations and technical areas.
It was as if they were all striving to be heard above the din of “We too have females doing more than handling reservations and being cabin crew.”
While making his opening remarks at the just concluded Africa Aviation 2017 conference in Kigali, President Paul Kagame threw his weight behind the Africa Open Skies crusade.
But he wasn’t just lending a voice to a cause that’s been much talked about — with little progress made towards its achievement — by African states, Kagame was also letting his peers know that his government was actively working with others who are willing to liberalise African airspace.
The highlight of his opening address was when he asked why an African travelling to another country within the continent should transit outside the continent, a question that left many policy makers hanging their heads in shame.
OPINION: I have received several requests for comment on RwandAir’s new developments, most notably on the airline’s new routes and its formidable fleet expansion into wide-body aircraft.
At a time when Kenya Airways is reeling from the aftermath of poor management decisions, and talk of the revival of a national carrier for Uganda has been simmering for a while, many think RwandAir is punching way above its weight. This is a position I do not agree with.
OPINION: Coming off a state visit to Rwanda recently, the Tanzanian head of state announced having obtained a “winning formula” from his Rwandan counterpart. Months down the road, the government of Tanzania has made some bold moves with their national carrier.
First came the appointment of Engineer Emmanuel Koroso as the board chairman of the new Air Tanzania. Alongside this appointment, the country’s President John Pombe Magufuli also appointed Engineer Ladislaus Evarist Matindi to the Managing Director position. Until his appointment Eng. Matindi has been Director – Joint Programme Office (JPO) – EU Satellite Navigation Services for African Region Programme.
Opinion: The proposed revival of Uganda Airlines has been debated for several months, and indeed, a lot has been written against the same.
Those against revival argue that airlines are not profit-making entities, the airline will collapse again because Uganda has a history of mismanaging state enterprises, Uganda has other priorities like health and education where the massive start-up capital required to set up an airline could be invested.
In the recent past, we have been hearing about how air travel and connectivity within the region is getting better through low-cost or budget carriers.
However, don’t go into a celebratory mood just yet.
A spot check on the website of a recently launched low-cost carrier put the one-way fare between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam at approximately Ksh8,000 ($80).
The same search done, with the same exact parameters, on the website of a full-service carrier revealed a fare of Ksh8,895 ($89). So, if by name alone “low-cost carrier” should imply travel cost savings, why isn’t that benefit evident?
Opinion:The business model of discount/no frills/budget airlines or Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) is based on low fares with limited services to keep costs to a minimum.
LCCs employ several cost cutting measures to ensure that their operating costs are less than those of traditional or Full Service Carriers (FSCs). The most common are; online ticket sales and check in, charges for checked in baggage and on-board refreshments, utilizing cheaper un-congested secondary airports, etc.