Airlines in Africa blame woes on poor politics

African airlines have always blamed politicians for the woes bedeviling the airline industry in the continent.They accuse politicians of doing little to help them thrive and compete with foreign carriers during the current global financial crisis and the tough times in the aviation industry.

African airlines chief executive officers last year attended the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly in Maputo, Mozambique.They said politicians enter into pacts with foreign airlines and nations(Bilateral Service Agreements) without consulting the country’s civil aviation authority yet they seek to enforce the same through airlines.

"Leasing firms work with politicians and not airlines," said Ghana Airways CEO Ms Gifty Annan-Myers. "Woe unto you if you do not implement the agreement."Myers said politicians hardly look into the airlines’ business plans when sign such agreements.

Arbitrary decisions by African Goverments Concerning Aviation Industry

She urged politicians to consult local airlines and aviation industry when negotiating on issues that are likely to affect them."Politicians should not blindly pry into the airline business. The day this happens, there will be a great change in the business," said Mr Inati Ntshanga, the chief operating officer of  South Africa Airways
Ntshanga noted that politicians also interfere with their countries civil aviations decisions, which negatively affects the airline business.A great example is the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority where political influence and corruption has led to the mismanagement of Africa's fourth largest airport.Night operations were suspended last year at the JKIA in Nairobi due faulty lighting!

The continent has also failed to fully implement the Yamoussoukro declaration, — meant to open the African airspace to African carriers.African governments protect their skies in order to protect their national airlines and head off fierce competition from foreign airlines.There is also a lot of egos involved in the African Skies leading to fierce competition amongst African Airlines.This has forestalled any chance of consolidation of African carriers at a time when European and American carriers are consolidating while Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates and Qatar Airways are shifting their greedy gaze to the African markets!An Alliance between Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines,fierce rivals,is inconceivable given the two airlines ambitions!Ethiopian Airlines is also wholly owned by the Ethiopian government and political interference would make the process of privatization slow and painful!

"We have failed to unite. Middle East carriers have taken over our air space and that is why Africans should learn to trust one another," said Captain David Savvy of Air Seychelles.Africa governments should  fully implement the Yamoussoukro declaration to facilitate the integration of the African air transport system.

"Our airlines and indeed air transport system may collapse if the declaration is not implemented immediately," warned.
He lamented at instances where one has to travel from African cities to Europe to get connections to other African cities Sawwy."The declaration was intended to facilitate the liberalisation of access to air transport markets in Africa and to promote and protect the African air transport system," he noted.

While giving his annual report to the CEOs, AFRAA the former secretary general Mr Christian Folly-Kossi called on African airlines to establish strategic partnerships, joint ventures or co-operation between the more resource-endowed carriers with their smaller counterparts. He said co-operations would ensure enhanced airline safety and security levels.

Folly-Kossi said last year that the blacklisting of some African airlines by some European countries has adversely affected the image of the continent."African airlines have presented a united voice to the European Union highlighting the unfairness of the procedures used against certain African carriers," he noted.
He contended that Africa’s aviation industry was also being hit by brain drain with highly trained and experienced professionals taking up jobs out of the continent.

Mitigating Brain Drain in African Aviation

In mitigation, Folly-Kossi said airlines should make use of the world class training facilities on the continent such as Kenya Airways’ Pride Centre, Ethiopia Airlines Training Academy, Egypt Air and Royal Air Maroc Training Centre.
 AFRAA is currently discussing with airlines on how to exploit opportunities created by the World Cup to be held in South Africa next year."Airlines have been discussing with each other how to take advantage of these opportunities," he said. "Airlines can collaborate through network planning, development and promotion of joint tour packages and product price bundling."

Some airlines have planned to increase flight frequencies between their countries and Johannesburg in time for the World Cup 2010

Among the African carriers that made profits in 2009 include Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Lam Mozambique Airlines, Air Seychelles, South African Express and Precision Air.
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