Q&A: Exciting Times for African Aviation

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Exciting Times for African Aviation

AVIAREPS is a leading international tourism and airline management company with approximately 80 airlines and 90 tourism accounts in its portfolio. The South Africa office has bases in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and currently represents Air Namibia, Kenya Tourist Board, Jet Express Charters, Fly 540, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express, Wyndham Group and Air Nigeria.     

Q: What is your core business?
A: In addition to airline sales and marketing, passenger sales and tourism marketing, clients also have access to PR, advertising, IBCS management, IT solutions and financial services.

Q: Profitable business must be difficult, as the majority of African airlines appear to work with small marketing budgets?

A: Yes, but considering the current state of the industry’s profitability globally, with an expected industry margin of only 0.5%, we don’t think that any airline has excessive marketing budget. Our strategy has been to assist in building the brand, based on solid relationships and high service levels, key relationships, constant visibility for the brands through active sales calling, constant updates to the trade, and strong media relations.  

Q: Where are you seeing the most activity in Africa, in terms of new routes and new players in the market?

A: East and West Africa, whilst Central Africa still seems to be lagging when it comes to experience. One of the biggest problems is the airports in Africa – they are not designed to be hubs and cannot handle the infrastructure required for the larger passenger numbers.     

Q: You recently took on Air Nigeria as a client. As it stands, what is the latest, in terms of its suspension?

A: Air Nigeria is the first Nigerian and the only carrier in West Africa to pass three consecutive IATA Operational Safety Audits in the last five years. The NCAA has just recently given Air Nigeria a clean bill of health after a successful safety audit of its fleet of aircraft and flight operations. They have at no time been found deficient in the discharge of offering safe air services to passenger.   

Q: What are your thoughts on the state of Nigerian commercial aviation?

A: Over the past few months we have been working very closely with Air Nigeria for the commencement of the Johannesburg route. It has been clear that they have strong aviation knowledge at a level beyond our expectations. 

 

Q: Perception of that market wouldn’t have been helped by the recent Dana Air crash. How do you convince customers that it’s still safe to fly with a Nigerian airline?

A: That’s fair enough comment and we certainly know the repercussions of such a tragic incident, but this does not in any way reflect on the safety of Nigerian airlines. Africa has this perception of lower standards when it comes to safety, but this is not the case with Air Nigeria, and it has been proven through their IOSA compliance.

 

Q: Smaller players such as Eritrean Airlines and RwandAir appear to be attempting to make more of a mark of late. Can we expect to see more of this?

A: Most certainly. The market is becoming more professional on all levels, by learning from successful carriers such as Ethiopian, Kenya, SAA and Air Mauritius. Intra-Africa flights is where it is at, with monthly growth being seen in this sector from purely African carriers.

Q: How difficult is it for those smaller airlines to claim market share?

A: Very difficult, especially in the South African market, as they are competing with well-established legacy carriers who are part of alliances and offer all the relevant interline and SPA agreements. There is still lots of opportunity, but planning of the route prior to commencement is crucial, and giving enough lead time to build the brand and open up the GDS systems for sales to the industry, can make or break a start-up route. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the high fuel price and its impact on the sustainability of some African airlines in 2012?

A: It’s affecting all carriers, but some of the smaller African airlines have much more serious challenges, such as no availability of jet fuel in their region, as we have recently seen in Eritrea.

Q: O.R. Tambo remains an African aviation hub. But, could we start seeing a shift in power towards the more centrally-located bases of Lagos and Nairobi, for example, in the future?

A: Those hubs certainly have the potential to overtake Johannesburg in the future as the gateways into Africa, but this will not happen until these airports have developed their infrastructure to offer a more effective transit for passengers. 

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