AFRAA Slams Gulf Carriers over "Poaching" habits

The head of the African Airline Association (AFRAA) hit out today at the Gulf carriers and other Middle East aviation companies for poaching staff and gaining unfair route advantages over African airlines
Elijah Chingosho, AFRAA’s secretary general said at an Embraer-organised airline business seminar in Nairobi today, that his organisation has written to the African Union to make formal complaints against Middle Eastern companies that, he said, were potentially destroying the aviation industry across the African continent.
Chingosho named Abu Dhabi-based MRO specialist ADAT as one of the companies.
“We saw in one week, ADAT poaching 17 experienced staff from Ethiopian Airlines. Not only has that removed a huge number of vital staff that the airline has invested in with training over the years, it has also put the viability of that airline at risk,” he said.

Chingosho also said that Africa was being “invaded by operators from outside the continent,” and said that carriers from the region were being shut out.

A number of Middle Eastern carriers have increased their reach into Africa particularly as demand from Asia for routes into the continent have increased.
“What we don’t understand is how airlines like Qatar and Emirates are able to gain access to certain African countries while African carriers face barriers. If it is ok for Emirates to fly a daily route, why can’t an African carrier?” he asked.

Chingosho also said that the political uncertainties in North Africa and the Middle East had severely affected the progress that the continent had been making in attracting tourism.

“We have seen a large impact in numbers as a result of the perception of uncertainty,” Chingosho said. “It has negatively affected tourism,” he said.

He added that airlines like Egyptian Air, Libyan Airways, Afriqiyah and Tunisian had to cut flights which led to a dip in the traffic numbers.

Chingosho also claimed a reluctance to implement open skies agreements and greater liberalisation by governments coupled with a larger than global average taxation for air travellers were holding back the growth of the air transport industry in Africa.

“We need greater liberalisation and harmonisation of regulations and policies of the stakeholders,” Chingosho said. He called on those countries ready to liberalise now to take action and let the other countries that are delaying, to see the benefits. "We have a group of countries we call CREW, that are ready and willing to liberalise. They need to do so now.

“This is a fast growing market with enormous opportunities. Infrastructure needs to be upgraded and improved to take advantage of these opportunities,” Chingosho said.

However, leading economist , Giulia Pellegrini from JP Morgan warned that rising and high inflation across sub-Saharan Africa should mean governments slow down spending on infrastructure. “A free spending approach will add to the inflation problem,” she said.

Chingosho also claimed that the EU blacklist on many African airlines was primarily a commercial action driven by the French government to protect French operations.

“Airlines in some countries have met international standards and yet they are on the blacklist. Air France operates into those countries with some of its highest yields. In fact nine of the top ten most profitable Air France routes are to Africa. It is in their interest to push for a blacklist to stop competition. You only need one country to raise an objection but a whole committee to reverse it . It is in their commercial interest to keep quiet.

He said there were even countries without a single aircraft on their register that had been added to the blacklist.

“Somebody in Iceland booking a flight to Africa will not consider an African airline because of the perception that all African airlines are unsafe, They don’t look at airlines that Kenyan, Royal Air Maroc, South African or EgyptAir. It would be much fairer to publish and promote the list of ‘ safe African airlines’.

“At the same time we hear the EU say that airlines from a country are on the blacklist because they are concerned about safety operations and yet it is ok for European airlines to fly into these countries. It would carry more weight fif they were to say EU airlines are banned from flying there because it is unsafe,” he said.
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