Africa’s Growing List Of Airbus Customers

The number is rising. Africa is becoming home to A220 operators as more carriers on the continent are acquiring the aircraft type, writes WOLE SHADARE

Growing presence

The number of airlines that have embraced Airbus A220 in Africa is growing. On December 28, Air Senegal became the fourth operator of the type in the continent after taking delivery of its first of eight A220-300s it has on order.

The aircraft got a special welcome with a water salute at Dakar’s Leopold Sedar Senghor airport a day later after arriving from Mirabel, which was attended by the country’s President, Macky Sall. The A220 entered service on January 4 to Casablanca (Morocco) and did crew training the next day.

Important step for Air Senegal

The arrival of the first A220 marks an important step for Air Senegal. The West African airline was founded in 2016 but began flying in May 2018. As the flag carrier of Senegal, it currently operates a fleet of three Airbus A319ceo’s, two A321ceo’s, two A330-900s, and two ATR 72-600s.

 

First A320 Neo by Air Cairo

It used to operate a Boeing 737-500, but this has been parked since October. Air Senegal signed a Memorandum of Understanding for eight A220- 300s at the 2019 Dubai Airshow. Instead of a direct purchase, the carrier will lease the aircraft, with the first joining from Macquarie Air- Finance.

The airline is expected to take delivery of another two A220-300s this year, one in 2023 and another one in 2024.

The lessor has ordered 29 A220- 300s, but during 2021, reduced its backlog from 40. At last November’s Dubai Airshow, Air Senegal and Macquarie announced a lease agreement for five A220s from  2023, although it is not fully clear if they are added to the eight from the 2019 MoU.

Back then, the airline’s CEO, Ibrahim Kane, said: “We are thrilled to have Macquarie AirFinance on our side for the A220 programme. The addition of this aircraft will be a game-changer in the West African landscape. It will provide our customers with an exceptional experience in terms of comfort and connectivity.”

Expanding Air Senegal’s network

Airbus’ assembly plant in Toulouse,

Kane described the A220 as a game-changer, stressing that the airplanes would help the carrier to expand its route network across the continent with relatively poor connectivity.

Adding the A220 to its portfolio will, other than substantially increase fleet size, make the airline’s operations more agile and reduce operating costs. It is also part of a 20-year plan to expand travel and tourism in Senegal. In 2019, Air Senegal was the first African airline to fly Airbus’ new-generation wide-body aircraft, the A330-900.

The state-owned carrier doesn’t disclose its financial results, but according to media reports, it suffered a loss of CFA 19.8 billion (€30 million) in 2019 and CFA 45 billion (€68 million) in 2020 when its operations were disrupted by the effects of the COVID-crisis. It received a bail-out from the government in 2020 to cover the full loss.

Air Tanzania, Egypt Air, Ibom proud owners

The Airbus A220 is now flying with four airlines in Africa: Air Tanzania, EgyptAir, Ibom Air, and Air Senegal. Nigeria’s Ibom Air has been wet-leasing the type from EgyptAir but announced a purchase agreement order for ten aircraft at the 2021 Dubai Airshow valued at $915 million.

They are for three -300s and seven -100s, but Ibom has the flexibility to swap the smaller for the bigger version.

Two A220-300 will be delivered to the airline in the first quarter of 2023, while all ten aircraft would be delivered in 2024. The two wet-leased aircraft would be returned to EgyptAir at the expiration of the lease agreement in June.

 

Airbus aircraft

As of November 30, 2021, Airbus had received orders for 94 A220-100s and 556 -300s, but these exclude the order for twenty -300s from Qantas that was announced in December.

Inroad into Nigeria’s aviation market

Aircraft maker, Airbus, is also making significant inroads into Nigeria’s aviation market with some Nigerian operators looking at the direction of the European airplane maker for aircraft.

Although the product of American aircraft maker, Boeing, still dominates the country’s airspace and it is so because over four decades, the B737 aircraft series had been the first choice of many operators.

But times are changing. The country is really having a mixture of aircraft brands like Embraer, Bombardier, ATR series, MD 83, Boeing and now Airbus. The recent acquisition and order by Air Peace for two A320 aircraft, Ibom Air’s order for 10 A220 planes at the just-concluded Dubai Airshow testify to a new shift to the Airbus brand of aircraft.

Airlines’ ‘scramble’ for Airbus

In November last year, Air Peace announced the acquisition of two Airbus A320 airliners to boost its domestic and regional operations, especially as Yuletide approached. Stanley Olisa, the airline’s spokesperson, said the two 162-seater aircraft, with 12 business class seats and 150 economy seats each, had arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

“The two A320 will be deployed to boost both domestic and regional connectivity for our esteemed customers as the Yuletide draws near,” he said.

He explained that the new planes would help the airline in its drive to meet the growing travel demand in the Nigerian and larger West African markets, while it expects to take delivery of more Embraer 195-E2 airplanes. “Air Peace is committed to reducing the air travel burden of Nigerians and these new airplanes are a testament to this commitment,” Olisa said.

It is not as if no Nigerian airline has ever operated the Airbus airplanes on the regional routes. First Nation operated two A319-100 aircraft before it ceased operations. Fast-growing Ibom Air had, early this year, leased two A220-300s from Egypt Air ahead of plans to expand into the regional West African market.

The two A220s, wet-leased from Egypt Air, would be returned to the North African country at the expiration of the lease agreement in June 2022.

Ibom Air would also dry-lease two aircraft to quickly replace the two that would be returned to Egypt Air next year June and operate them till the first two out of the ten Airbus planes are delivered in 2023. Ibom Air wetleased two new A220 jets from Egypt Air to bridge capacity gaps in Nigeria’s aviation sector.

Last line

There are indications that more airlines had placed orders for the aircraft type as they prepare to take their orders, starting from 2022.

Wole Shadare

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