Rugby and Travel Fly together in Kenya and South Africa!

Sports and travel are great bedfellows everywhere in the world.In the business of branding,airlines create a near perfect image in the minds of consumers,a "paradise flight",offering honey, milk and heaven on TV and  online media only for these unfortunate consumers to be brought down to earth when they take the first flight!A flight made in hell!You all must remember the "When was the first Time you did Something for the First Time" ad or the 'great' airline that "makes you feel like a star"?

A great part of that branding now involves being associated with a winning team!Turkish airlines is now "Globally yours with Barcelona" and Emirates is a regular sponsor of major sporting events including the just concluded FIFA World Cup 2010.

People love winning brands and winning teams and airlines,the masters in product branding love to be associated with winners more than anyone.In the soccer mad planet of Africa,two major African legacy airlines hail from countries known more for their prowess in rugby than soccer:Kenya and South Africa.

Anyone who just watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup already knows that South Africa is not a serious soccer nation.It's safer placing your bet on Uganda than on South Africa!And Kenya,well most Kenyans love Arsenal than their national team.The Kenyan team is more like the English,when they lose they are not to blame.It's either the weather or the ball or some divine mystery...and they always lose.

When it comes to rugby,the two soccer minnows are powerhouses and World beaters.Both are ranked in top 10 in the IRB circuit and while South Africa is in a class of its own,Kenya is an emerging power with a religious and fanatical following.And their two national carriers have taken note of their winning ways.They use their rugby teams' success for successful marketing campaigns.

Last year,Kenya Airways Marketing Director,Dick Omondi secured a sponsorship deal with the Kenyan national rugby team,replacing Virgin Atlantic,the erstwhile sponsors and KQ now exploits to the maximum the marketing opportunities that come along when you dine with winners.Kenyans and Kenya Airways partied hard when Kenya beat South African Emerging Boks in a thrilling match at the Safari Sevens earlier this year.

Taking cue from Kenya Airways,South African Airways is now an associated sponsor of South African Rugby and the Springboks(South African Airways used to have a Springbok logo before it was dropped!).

In Kenya and South Africa,it seems rugby is set to fly higher for the foreseeable future.The rivalry at 30,000 feet has entered the pitch!

Chinese Airlines not following the Money Trail into African Skies

China might be throwing management resources at Africa in order to gain from ‘first refusal’ access to mineral resources there, Chinese airlines have been slow on the uptake as far as their own flights into Africa are concerned. Of the ‘big three’ international Chinese airlines Air China currently has no services into Africa, China Southern has one (Lagos) and China Eastern one (Johannesburg).

Of course alliance and code share agreements make indirect access possible but the conclusion must be that the Turkish government is playing the Chinese at their own game quite well; and possibly to greater effect in the long run.

The difference in behaviour highlights the massive advantage that hub carriers like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have, being able to link multiple city pairs without the need for the sort of long, thin routes that the Chinese airlines would have to operate.

Turkish has an advantage even over the Gulf airlines, as it has substantial origin-destination and domestic markets, in addition to its global network.

Air China has in the past talked about establishing a base in the UAE (which has an open skies policy allowing fifth freedom operations). But this is a strategy that will probably not become viable until airline liberalisation has progressed further. Meanwhile, the power remains with the hub carriers. One option - always in the wings - is for cross-equity airline ownerships and that is perhaps the more probable medium term prospect.

Destination Africa:Is Turkish Airlines the New Emirates?

Turkish Airlines (THY) is being encouraged to launch services between Istanbul and Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. It is not the first time that the airline has been linked to new African services but on this occasion comes the admission there is a wider agenda involving trade and specifically mining and energy. Could Turkey be about to emulate China, which has been flooding the African continent with executive manpower - especially where there are sparse resources to be mined - using essential air transport as bait?

The Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, this week announced the country is ready to improve cooperation with Zambia in the fields of transportation, agriculture, mining and energy. At the same time the Zambian President, Rupiah Banda, stated he expected Turkish Airlines to launch service to the country, after the governments signed agreements to strengthen aviation services. It is not unusual for air service agreements to be bound up with trade agreements but the scale on which they are happening presently in Africa is striking.

In the same week THY confirmed the launch of four times weekly Istanbul-Lagos (Nigeria) – Accra (Ghana) service from 15-Jul-2010, with Fifth Freedom rights between Lagos and Accra. With the Accra service, Turkish Airlines continues to increase its already extensive network and will serve 127 international destinations worldwide.

Africa is THY’s ‘most valuable destination’

Late in 2009 THY opened an office in Uganda as part of plans to turn Africa into the airline's "most valuable destination", stating that Uganda inspires a lot of investor confidence while its economy is growing at 6% per annum. Three times weekly services to Entebbe Airport (and Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania) commenced on 16-Jun 2010. Another African city served newly since the beginning of 2010 is Alexandria in Egypt, with effect from 18-Jun-2010. The carrier plans to establish up to ten new destinations in Africa in 2010. It already serves Addis Ababa, Algiers, Benghazi, Cairo, Cape Town, Casablanca, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Nairobi, Tunis and Tripoli.

Zambia's economy has experienced strong growth in recent years, with real GDP growth in 2005-08 about 6% per year, the same as Uganda’s. Privatisation of government-owned copper mines in the 1990s relieved the government from covering mammoth losses generated by the industry and greatly improved the chances for copper mining to return to profitability and spur economic growth. The decline in world commodity prices and demand hurt GDP growth in 2009, but a sharp rebound in copper prices has helped Zambia begin to recover recently.

There are clear economic benefits from dealing with other African countries where THY now flies. For example, Ghana is well endowed with natural resources and has roughly twice the per capita output of the poorest countries in West Africa. Gold and cocoa production are major sources of foreign exchange. Oil production is expected to expand in late 2010 or early 2011.

Senegal, the once prosperous phosphate exporter, has struggled for two years to secure capital and reduced output has directly impacted GDP. In 2007, Senegal signed agreements for major new mining concessions for iron, zircon, and gold with foreign companies. Firms from Dubai have agreed to manage and modernise Dakar's maritime port and create a new special economic zone.

THY the new Emirates?

Which raises the question of whether THY is also aiming to gain access to these countries as quickly as is Emirates? Presently, Emirates flies to 19 cities in Africa (including Mauritius and the Seychelles). Unsurprisingly perhaps, 12 of them (Casablanca, Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Dakar, Accra, Lagos, Dar-Es-Salaam, Entebbe, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Khartoum) are cities that THY is also now flying to.

Apart from the mineral wealth of many of these countries it has often been suggested that THY could have been what Emirates has become - a truly intercontinental hub airline, able to offer connections to all corners of the globe via Istanbul, if only it got its act together. As far as Africa is concerned at least it seems it is starting to do that.

Using Zambia as an example, there is currently only one intercontinental flight – British Airways to London Heathrow. There is no option on Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways and travelling via Johannesburg is an unattractive dog-leg journey to most destinations. THY’s arrival would therefore be a win:win – facilitating much greater access and egress to and from many parts of the world as well as facilitating industrial and commercial co-operation.

As the world’s attention moves away from Africa following the FIFA World Cup, THY’s attention clearly remains firmly fixed on the continent.

From Nairobi to Luanda:Kenya Airways to Fly to Angola

This was long overdue. Kenya Airways will on17th August launch its 50th route to  Luanda Angola in cooperation with Angola's national carrier TAAG.Angola has become a sub Saharan Africa economic powerhouse and Angola national carrier is fast becoming a major African legacy carrier.

The KQ0770 flight from Nairobi to Luanda(LAD) will depart Nairobi on Tuesday at 0530GMT while flight number KQ0771 will depart Luanda for Nairobi on Friday at 0830 GMT.
KQ's fierce rival Ethiopian Airlines already provides an Addis Ababa-Brazzaville-Kinshasa-Luanda service.