Sunday, January 31, 2010

African airlines in historic profit drop

African airlines recorded a 6.8 per cent decline in the number of passengers in 2009, but prospects looked good for the month of D ecember, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a report Wed n esday.

The African airlines recorded lower than average performance in passengers, main ly worsened by the weak profits that most airlines within the continent recorded

in 2009.

??In terms of demand, 2009 goes in history books as the worst year the industry has ever seen,?? AITA Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani said.

African airlines, which provide a major link to international travelers within t he continent, showed signs of profit recovery in December, 2009. During the mont h , the airlines recorded impressive number of passengers, with volumes 3.1 per ce n t higher.

African carriers have been victims of the wildcat oil price hikes. They were als o affected by the effects of the global economic down-turn. This affected carrie r s which partly supplement their profits with cargo volumes.

??We have permanently lost 2.5 years of growth in passenger markets and 3.5 yea rs of growth in the freight business,?? said Bisignani.

International passenger capacity fell 0.7% in December 2009 while freight capaci ty grew 0.6% above December 2008 levels.

Yields have started to improve with tighter supply-demand conditions in recent m onths, but they remained 5-10% down on 2008 levels.

??Revenue improvements will be at a much slower pace than the demand growth tha t we are starting to see. Profitability will be even slower to recover and airli n es will lose an expected US$ 5.6 billion in 2010,?? said Bisignani.

Seasonally adjusted demand figures for December compared to November 2009 indica te a 1.6% rise in passenger traffic. Freight volumes, however, remained weak.

Most airlines were able to fly more passengers on every flight, with the average industry figures showing an impressive 77 per cent passenger load on every flig h t.

Industry figures also show that the cargo market may be getting much better. Acc ording to AITA, the latest figures show the amount of new freight orders may be a t a 44-month high.

The December 2009 freight demand showed a 24.4% improvement on December 2008 wit h a load factor of 54.1%. This improvement is exaggerated by the exceptionally w e ak performance in December 2008 which was the low point.

Freight demand is still 7% lower than the peak in early 2008.

However, optimism is returning to the industry as purchasing managers survey ind icators reached a 44-month high in December pointing towards increased freight v o lumes in the coming months.

Asia-Pacific carriers accounted for over 60% of the increase in international ai r freight markets over the past 12 months - outperforming their 45% market share .
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ethiopian crash jet flight recorders found off Lebanon

The "black box" flight recorders from a passenger jet which crashed off the coast of Lebanon two days ago have been found, officials say.

A search team located the recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines flight just over 1.3km (0.8 miles) underwater, 10km west of the capital, Beirut.

The search team is now trying to retrieve them, Lebanese security officials said.

All 90 people on board the flight are presumed dead following the crash.

At least 24 bodies have been pulled from the sea so far.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, bound for Addis Ababa, crashed into the Mediterranean minutes after take-off from Beirut at 0237 (0037 GMT) during a severe thunderstorm on Monday.

Witnesses said they saw the plane plummet into the sea in flames.

The international search operation has included Lebanese navy troops and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) as well as US navy destroyer USS Ramage and a civilian vessel from Cyprus with sonar equipment.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, however Lebanese officials have said the jet did not fly in the direction instructed by the Beirut control tower.

The officials said the pilot had been asked to correct his course, but turned in the opposite direction.

Seven crew and 83 passengers were on board the Boeing 737-800. Most were Lebanese or Ethiopian.

Marla Pietton, the wife of the French ambassador in Beirut, was among those on board.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ethiopian plane crash should not sully success story

When news of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash broke this morning my heart sank at the thought of covering yet another negative story about Ethiopia.

It?s particularly galling for Ethiopians that the airline is one of the few international success stories for a country known mostly for famine and war.

When the news emerged I also immediately knew how hard the company?s staff would take it. I?ve been to the sprawling campus that serves as headquarters to Africa?s arguably flagship airline many times. The last time was just last week to interview CEO Girma Wake and I left with a gift of Ethiopian coffee and the impression that I?d rarely seen people so passionate or proud about their work and what it does for their country.

Ethiopian Airlines is a company that Ethiopians are proud of. It has consistently expanded and remained profitable through tough times for other airlines and all manner of global economic strife. It has prioritized safety in a continent with a lamentable record and it is aggressively expanding into China and India.

It had an impressive safety record before today, last suffering a disaster in 1996 when Somali hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia, causing the plane to run out of fuel and ditch off the Comoros, killing 123 of its 175 passengers.

Ethiopians I spoke to this morning said they didn?t think people outside of the country would be surprised that an Ethiopian Airlines plane had crashed, so negative are foreign perceptions of the country. But the fact is: it is a surprise.

The airline is a symbol of hope for Ethiopia. And Ethiopia is a truly unique and propitious country of 80 million people ? albeit with a desperate history.

Democracy is now ? debatably ? slowly emerging, a middle class has appeared, the economy is growing, more Ethiopians than ever before are being educated, and ambitious and fiercely patriotic Ethiopians are taking control of the future of one of Africa?s most exciting prospects. Ethiopia is not just bad news anymore.

The cause of the crash is still unknown. But it would be a shame if this one incident damages perceptions of an emerging airline and a promising country.


Market Outlook: Positive signs but it is still early days

By Chris Tarry

Although there are signs of a recovery underway in most markets, at least in volume terms, if anything there is an even greater need to focus on activity levels and compare these with the 2007-08 peak, rather than getting too excited about rates of change over the last 12 months.

For many airlines "an improvement" may mark the first steps on the path to restoring previous levels. But the extent of the decline means that there is a long way to go, while the nature of the recovery will begin to highlight where the change has been structural rather than just cyclical.

Of course, individual airlines will have different experiences. Just as the nature and effects of the downturn were non-homogeneous, so too will be the recovery. There will be major differences geographically as well as between long- and short-haul airlines.

There are undoubtedly a number of airline managers who share this view. "The market continues to be unpredictable and the uncertainty regarding the timing of the recovery is considerable," says SAS in its December traffic release.

In this respect, it is not only the timing of the restoration of previous levels of traffic, but also the structure or the mix of traffic between economy and premium.

Past experience demonstrates there is always a lag in the recovery in premium traffic, while the share of premium traffic - particularly on short-haul routes - has been in almost continuous decline since the early 1990s.

This time around there has been a structural and negative shift in short-haul premium traffic and the prospect of any meaningful recovery is close to zero.

IATA's latest premium monitor data adds weight to this view. Year-to-date figures for October show intra-European down some 27% and intra-North American 21%. This comes on top of similar falls in September.

At the same time as SAS management expressed its concerns over the nature and timing of the recovery, others saw encouragement from an improvement in long-haul premium during December.

British Airways says long-haul premium continued "to show signs of improvement", while Air France says unit revenues in December continued their recovery thanks to "a more marked improvement" in long-haul premium traffic.

Indeed BA has begun to break out changes in its short- and long-haul premium traffic, although not on a consistent basis.

Its short-haul premium was down 20% in November, compared with an a 1.5% long-haul premium increase, and a 1.7% decline in total premium traffic.

Similarly, December long-haul premium was up 1.6% compared with the same month in 2008, while short-haul premium was some 10% lower with a total premium decline of 0.7%.

Given that the reference point for recovery should be 2007, it is worth recalling that in the year to November 2008, BA's premium traffic fell 10.8%, and by 12.1% for the year to December 2008.

Perhaps the best that can be said is that the turning point has been reached, but there is a long way yet to go before volumes and values recover to previous levels.

This is equally clear at an industry level. Here the decline in total premium traffic in October was 9.3% year-on-year, and 18% for the year to date. This was marginally better than the near-14% fall in the year to September, and 19% for the year to date.

However it is again important to look at the reduction on a two-year basis, both in terms of volume and revenue. In this respect, overall premium traffic in October 2009 was almost 20% lower than October 2007, while revenue from premium passengers appears to be about a third lower than it was in October 2007.

Of course, there can only be a recovery once a turning point has been reached and, as we have commented previously, it is perhaps only less worse rather than really any better.

Indeed, in some cases, particularly short-haul premium traffic, there has been a structural change and anybody expecting a meaningful recovery in this segment will be in for a disappointment.

Furthermore, where we are now should focus attention on the wider changes that are occurring and will continue to occur in the short-haul market place.

This reinforces the structural nature of the changes in the industry, which appear increasingly evident through the data.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UPDATE: Pilot in Beirut crash didnt follow tower advice

The pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed into the sea flew in the opposite direction from the path recommended by the control tower after taking off from Beirut in thunderstorms, Lebanon's transportation minister said Tuesday.

All 90 people on board were feared dead after the plane bound for the Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, went down in flames minutes after takeoff at around 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said the pilot initially followed the tower's guidance, but then abruptly changed course and went in the opposite direction.

"They asked him to correct his path but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar," Aridi told The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear why the pilot veered off the recommended path. Like most other airliners, the Boeing 737 is equipped with its own onboard weather radar, which the pilot may have used to avoid flying into thunderheads rather than following the flight tower's recommendation.

"Nobody is saying the pilot is to blame for not heeding orders," Aridi said, adding: "There could have been many reasons for what happened. ... Only the black box can tell."

Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Girma Wake said the Lebanese minister's comments were premature.

"Rushing remarks, I don't think that helps anybody," Wake said in Addis Ababa.

Lebanese officials have said there is no indication of terrorism or "sabotage."

A senior security official involved in the crash investigation said the black box would provide more definitive answers, but he noted that other factors -- including weather conditions -- are more likely culprits than anyone bringing the plane down on purpose.

"The probability of sabotage in these circumstances is much less than all other probabilities," he said, asking that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

No survivors had been found more than 24 hours after the crash. Emergency workers have pulled bodies from the sea; the numbers reported so far range from a dozen to more than 20. Several officials have revised their numbers, saying they miscounted.

"We hope they will find trapped bodies in the fuselage," Wake said.

The Lebanese army and witnesses say the plane was on fire shortly after takeoff. A defense official also said some witnesses reported the plane broke up into three pieces.

Searchers were trying to find the plane's black box and flight data recorder, which are critical to determining the cause of the crash.

Cockpit Scare On Canaries Holiday Flight

A passenger tried to force his way into the cockpit on board a plane flying to the Canary Islands.

Staff and other passengers restrained the man on the Thomson Airways flight from Cardiff.

He was arrested when it landed at Las Palmas airport, Gran Canaria.
It is not being treated as a terrorist incident.

A spokeswoman for the airport said the man, a Spaniard from the Canary Islands, was "nervous" and "panicked" during the flight.

She added that he was later freed by police.

The man was one of 193 people on board the jet when it took off from Cardiff Airport at 8.20am, including five cabin crew, the captain and a first officer.

A Thomson spokeswoman confirmed that a passenger became disruptive and demonstrated aggressive behaviour towards customers and crew.

"The passenger was restrained during the flight and in accordance with our procedures the aircraft was met by the local police upon arrival in Gran Canaria."

She added: "Thomson Airways operates a zero tolerance approach towards aggressive behaviour on board its flights.

"The safety of our customers and crew is the airline's number one priority at all times."

Sky News

Moves towards improving aviation safety in Ghana announced

Mr. Mike Hammah, Minister of Transport, on Monday said Ghana was working closely with the United States (US) Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), to resolve all deficiencies in safety and security oversight in this country's aviation industry.

He said this serves: "As a precursor to the FAA Category 1 Audit, which would subsequently lead to the country's quest for the restoration of Ghana from FAA category 2 to category 1."

Mr Hammah was speaking at the 9th Co-operative Development and Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Programme steering committee, and the eleventh plenary of the Banjul Accord Group, in Accra. He said the government was committed to ensuring that Ghana was seen as a shining example of first class aviation safety and security. Mr Hammah observed that aviation activity was gradually rising in line with the oil and gas discovery in the country.

He said: "The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority's (GCAA) efforts to implement the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Federal Aviation Authority Category 1 action plan could not have come at a better time".

He extended the government of Ghana's gratitude to the government of the US, the FAA and Safe Skies Project for their support. Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey, Director General of the GCAA, noted that at the present stage of the aviation industry, the West African sub-region needed to have a strong voice in maters relating to aviation safety and security.

He said this could not be achieved on a silver platter and that "We as a regional body need to work at it, and as a strong regional grouping, to ensure first, that our collective airspace s noted for safety and admirable security."

Source: GNA

Monday, January 25, 2010

Aviation fuel to KIA cut following TOR inferno

Aviation turbine kerosene (ATK) supply to Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has been suspended following the fire outbreak at the loading gantry of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR).

In a press statement issued by the Ghana Airports Authority and signed by its managing director Doreen Owusu Fianko, the company requested airlines to refuel from neighbouring countries.

“The situation has further been affected by on-going refurbishment of the tanks by JUHI in line with safety standards in the aviation industry and is scheduled to be completed in February 2010.

“JUHI has meanwhile initiated steps to ensure the provision of ATK from neighboring countries for use at the airport in the short - term.

“In view of the storage capacity issues, the Ghana Airports Company Ltd (GACL) had already initiated the processes to collaborate with the private sector to provide additional storage facilities to augment capacity at the airport.

The statement said “the Ghana Airports Company Ltd (GACL) deeply regrets the inconvenience caused by the shortage and wishes to assure the airlines and the traveling public of its commitment to help resolve these challenges in a timely manner to ensure smooth, safe and secure operations at the airport.”

The TOR fire gutted the loading bay of the refinery, shutting down several of its sections.

At least two persons died from burns they suffered as a result of the fire.


UPDATE : All feared dead in Ethiopian plane crash off Beirut

BEIRUT (Reuters) - All 90 people aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane were feared dead after it plunged into the Mediterranean, minutes after taking off from Beirut in a thunderstorm on Monday.

Flight ET409, a Boeing 737-800, heading for Addis Ababa, disappeared off the radar some five minutes after taking off at 2:37 a.m. (12:37 a.m. British time).

The Lebanese army said the plane had broken up in the air before plummeting into rough seas. Witnesses described the impact as a "flash that lit up the whole sea" and a "ball of fire."

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said he did not think the plane had been brought down deliberately, emphasising "a sabotage attack is unlikely."

Defence Minister Elias el-Murr also said there was no evidence of a terrorist attack and that weather was "in principle" to blame for the crash.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake said he had spoken with Lebanese authorities who had no word of survivors.

Eighty-three passengers and seven crew were on the flight, Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said at the airport.

Twenty-four bodies, including those of two toddlers, have so far been recovered. At least six bodies were of Ethiopian origin, officials said. Some of the bodies were so unrecognisable from the impact of the crash that DNA testing would be needed to identify them.

The remains of mangled aircraft seats and luggage washed up on the shore south of Beirut where the airport's main runway is located. Lebanese army patrol boats, helicopters and divers searched an area off Na'ameh, 10 km (six miles) south of the capital.

Fifty-four of those on board were Lebanese, 22 were Ethiopian, two were British and there were also Canadian, Russian, French, Iraqi, Syrian, and Turkish nationals.

Marla Pietton, wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton, was on the plane, the French embassy said.


The Lebanese government declared a day of mourning. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited the airport to meet distraught relatives waiting for news of survivors, some of whom were angry that the plane was allowed to take off in bad weather.

"They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear that lightning strikes at planes especially during take-offs," a relative of one of the passengers told a local television station.

Girma said he did not think the crew would have taken off in dangerous weather conditions.

"There was bad weather. How bad it is, I will not be able to say. But, from what I see, probably it was manageable weather otherwise the crew would not have taken off," he told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

A 14-strong investigation team from Ethiopia including Ethiopian Airlines officials arrived by plane in Beirut to help probe the causes of the crash.

Boeing said it was coordinating with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to assist Lebanese authorities in the investigation.

U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon, Cypriot police, the British military stationed in Cyprus and the U.S. navy provided helicopters, ships and divers to aid search and rescue.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has positioned itself as a major player in international air traffic in Africa and has recently expanded its Asian network.

Girma said the plane, built in 2002, last underwent a maintenance check on December 25 and no technical problems were found. The plane had been leased from a division of U.S. financing company CIT Group.

Ethiopian airlines has regular flights to Lebanon, catering for business clients and the thousands of Ethiopians who work there as domestic helpers. Lebanese aviation sources said some of the passengers had been en route to Angola and other African countries.

Last Friday the airline announced an order for 10 of Boeing's Next-Generation 737-800s for a total price of $767 million.

The last incident involving Ethiopian Airlines was in November 1996 when 125 of the 175 passengers and crew died after a hijacked Boeing 767 crashed off the Comoros Islands.

The crash is the fifth incident involving the loss of a Boeing 737-800, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

Source: Reuters

BREAKING NEWS :Ethiopian Airlines jet crashes into sea off Beirut

An Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane with 92 people on board has crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after take-off from Beirut airport.

Eyewitnesses say they saw a ball of fire in the sky before the jet, which was was bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, crashed into the sea.

Wreckage from the plane has reportedly been seen off the Lebanese coast.

About 50 of the passengers on board were said to be Lebanese nationals, and most of the rest were Ethiopian.

The plane, believed to be a Boeing 737, is said to have disappeared from radar screens some five minutes after take-off in stormy weather at about 0200 local time.

The BBC's Natalia Antelava, in Beirut, reports that the Lebanese transport minister and other officials say a rescue operation is now under way, but it is not clear if there are any survivors.

Thousands of Ethiopians are employed as domestic helpers in Lebanon.

Ethiopian Airlines operates a regular flight between Addis Ababa from Beirut.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ethiopian Orders Ten Boeing 737-800s

Ethiopian announced that it has signed an agreement with Boeing to purchase ten 737-800s aircraft, delivery of which is scheduled to begin November 2011. Mr. Girma Wake, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, signed a definitive agreement with Mr. Skip H. Thompson, Boeings Sales Director for the Middle East and Africa, at the Ethiopian headquarters. The total order is worth USD 767 million at a list price.

Regarding the new order, Mr. Girma said, Ethiopian Airlines continues to progress with its rigorous fleet and network expansions catering to its growth needs. The new aircraft orders will enable the airline to fly one of the newest and greenest aircraft in Africa. The added capacity will also create further momentum to the growth of the airline in particular and the African economy in general.

"Since its founding in December 1945, Ethiopian Airlines has been a dedicated Boeing operator from its first flights using DC-3 propeller-driven airplanes between Addis Ababa and Cairo, to recent orders for the long haul 787s and 777-200LRs, and continuing now with 737-800s. Ethiopian Airlines has been among the most profitable airlines in the region and one of our most valued partners, "said Marlin Dailey, vice president of Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The Boeing 737-800s are the best-selling version of the successful Next-Generation 737 family. The 737 next generation aircraft is known for its reliability, fuel efficiency, and economical performance. It incorporates an advanced-technology of wing design that helps increase fuel capacity and efficiency, both of which increase range. Ethiopian selected the B737-800s for its short and medium range operations in Africa and the Middle East to support the ever growing market demand.

Ethiopian currently has a fleet of 37 aircraft and a firm order for 45 aircraft, including eight Q400s to begin arriving in March 2010, five 777-200LRs to be delivered starting in November, ten 787s slated to begin arriving in July 2011 and twelve A350s set scheduled for delivery in 2017. The Q-400 will be used for domestic and regional services.

Source: African Aviation

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ethiopian, ASKY partnership hallmarks intra -Africa cooperation in airlines business: Seyoum

The Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the partnership between the Ethiopian and ASKY airlines marks the truly historic intra-African cooperation in the airline business

Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe lauded Ethiopia?s effort to advance the African aviation industry.

The Minister was speaking at the operational commencement of ASKY airline held in Lome Town recently. Seyoum, who is also chairperson of Ethiopian Board of Directors, said Ethiopian airlines and ASKY have entered into a unique form of business partnership and alliance to fill the void created by the absence of sufficient air transport service across many nations of the continent particularly in the central and west African region.

He said Africa lags behind in the development of transportation and communication infrastructure which is vital for the advancement of all aspects of life including industry, agriculture and education, among others. Seyoum expressed belief that ASKY will play vital role in bringing Africans closer to each other and to the rest of the world.

Seyoum said Africa needs to develop its aviation industry in order to accelerate its social economic progress and provide efficient service in global mobility for its people. The minister said Ethiopia is committed to do whatever it takes to support initiatives such as Ethiopian /ASKY partnership. Founder and ASKY chairperson of Board of Directors Gervais Koffi Djondo said Ethiopian airlines has remarkably contributed for the realization of ASKY. Ethiopian, which is the leading and exemplary carrier in Africa, has played significant role to commence ASKY's operation as per the schedule.

Ethiopian has 25 percent share while African investors, regional economic blocs and African banks share the balance , he said and called up on stakeholders to make the ASKY effective in the business.

ASKY Airline CEO, Bussera Awol on the occasion said the ASKY airline has signed a five-year-long management contract
with the Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's newest international airline. Ethiopian CEO, Girma Wake said despite addressing the West African air transport problems it would enhance air transport service in the region. Girma said Ethiopian?s dream to make hub in West Africa comes true through the commencement of ASKY. He said Ethiopia is benefiting Africa.

The commencement of ASKY airline indicates that Africans can work together. Meanwhile, Ethiopian has received from the Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe the Togolese medallion of honor at a ceremony held at Togolese National Palace . . Ethiopian Board of Directors? chairperson and CEO have also received awards for outstanding performance of the airliner.

It was disclosed that Ethiopian has provided two Boeing 737 aircrafts and has trained 45 stewardesses for ASKY, which is established with 120 million USD.

Source (ENA)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ghana Foreign Ministry educate stakeholders on biometric passports

Accra, Jan. 15, GNA - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration on Friday organized a training session for Regional Immigration Commanders and Information Service Officers on the issuance of the new biometric passports to be launched on Wednesday, February 3, 2010.

"The session would also mark the beginning of important and effective publicity and sensitization campaign for the implementation of the issuance of biometric passport to be undertaken by the stakeholders," Mr. Martin Quansah, Deputy Director of Passports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in Accra. He said the training programme would also afford the stakeholders an opportunity to be conversant with the importance of the adoption of biometric passports, their features, mode of acquisition and all other relevant information.

Mr. Quansah said government's decision to adopt the biometric passport system was in compliance with a directive from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that all member countries should adopt the system by 2015. He cited the easy manner by which fake passports were being acquired worldwide and their abuse as the main reason that necessitated the directive from the ICAO.

Mr. Quansah mentioned holographic foil, watermark paper, invisible and visible foil, digital photographs as some of the features of the biometric passports.

On its advantages, Mr. Quansah said it could effectively stop impersonation, share vital information on a holder with national and international organisations, genuine and acceptable photographs. "It would also help us to cross-check a holder on Stop List and other reference list when the need arises and enhance Ghana's image internationally under the ICAO directive," he added. Ms. Bernice Benneh, Director of Passports, said the application fee would be higher due to some features on them. She appealed to the stakeholders to communicate feedback on the passports from the public and their challenges to the implementation agencies for redress to improve on the campaign. Ms. Benneh noted that at the moment only the Passport Office in Accra had been equipped to undertake the project and other passport offices in the regions would be resourced soon.

Source: GNA

Friday, January 15, 2010

Folly-Kossi: Espoused The Spirit Of African Unity

Mr. Christian Folly Kossi has served as Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in the last ten years driven by the tenets of a united Africa. As he steps aside end of 2009, he recounts salient aspects of his revolutionary stewardship

Q: You have served over the past 10 years as AFRAA Secretary General. What was your driving force during these years?

A: My generation in West Africa inherited Kwame Nkurumah’s ideology of African Unity. This dream has lived with me over the years. My job at AFRAA has been a fantastic opportunity to contribute to bring African nations and people together through appropriate air transport policies. As I am convinced that air transport is one of the indispensable pillars of Africa’s economic development, serving this section and advocating its interests at the highest levels across the continent was highly exciting, motivating and rewarding.

Q: As you step down as AFRAA Secretary General, what would you really say are your high points?

A: The decade I dedicated to the service of Africa has been immensely gratifying. Our organisation has transformed into a powerful think-tank with a face and a voice to represent it in all international fora and express its views to African Governments, continental institutions as well as industry conferences and the media.

AFRAA has gained full international organisation status and audience. As such it attends the African Union Heads of States summit and speaks at all conferences of Ministers in charge of Civil Aviation. The Association has been a strong continental advocate on all burning issues of the industry that include, for instance, the Yamoussoukro Decision implementation, brain drain, the need for a common air transport external policy, the EU Commission blacklisting, the rules and regulations of EASA and SAFA, ETS, to name only a few. Under my leadership, training has expanded from skills to management training.

AFRAA has also assisted member airlines to migrate from paper tickets to e-tickets and successfully pass IOSA audits. Last but not least, the Association has been instrumental in establishing strategic partnerships between Ethiopian Airlines and ASKY as well as between South African Airways and Air CEMAC. Other such North-South cooperation arrangements are already in the pipeline.

Q: Looking at your advocacy over the years, would you say harmony and cooperation are increasing among African airlines, and are there possibilities of mergers or mega African airline alliances just like the major global alliances?

A: We are seeing big progress in this regard. In addition to the partnership already mentioned, Kenya Airways has invested in Precision Air and recently, Air Burkina, Air Mali and Air Ivoire have signed a cooperation agreement which specifically indicated that it might lead to a merger.Even the promoters of the new Air Senegal are looking again for an African strategic partner. The preaching in the desert is starting to bear fruits.

Q: In your two terms as AFRAA Secretary General, would you say AFRAA was able to deal with volatile fuel challenge for African airlines, and what do you think is the best way to address this problem?

The fuel situation since I came to office has indeed been very volatile. However, the general trend over the years has seen an increase in fuel prices up to mid-2008. Even though there has been a sharp reduction in fuel prices in the recent past, it is envisaged that as the world economic and financial crisis get resolved, the price of fuel will again continue on its upward trend. Over the period from 2000 to 2008, the proportion of fuel costs to the total operational costs has been very significant and has been a major factor in determining whether an airline will be profitable or not. As a result, the major cost cutting initiatives have been aimed at ways and means to either minimize fuel usage or reduce fuel costs.

AFRAA has embarked on a number of activities to alleviate the volatile and increased fuel price situation. AFRAA introduced some consultants and experts on fuel hedging to member airlines so that they can advise on appropriate strategies for fuel cost management. A number of airlines successfully adopted fuel hedging strategies although some of these received bad press following the recent sharp decline in fuel prices. In addition, AFRAA worked hard to introduce joint fuel purchase which unfortunately encountered some hitches but which some of our member airlines who are in AACO are enjoying. Furthermore, AFRAA has encouraged airlines to renew their fleets so as to use modern fuel-efficient aircraft. Indeed, a number of airlines have embarked on massive fleet renewal which has been very beneficial in terms of optimizing their fuel usage. Ultimately, fleet renewal may be the most efficient long term strategy to reduce fuel costs and we believe this is the way to go. However, all the other strategies such as sensitizing all relevant airline personnel about effective ways to minimize fuel usage, fuel hedging strategies and joint fuel purchase all add up to a holistic way of tackling the challenge of increasing and volatile fuel costs. AFRAA has also undertaken some training programmes, in some cases in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on the strategies to manage and reduce fuel costs. Through the Technical and Operations Committee, information concerning ICAO’s proposals on operational strategies to reduce fuel usage has been disseminated to AFRAA member airlines for their implementation. These strategies include advice on engine maintenance and prevention of performance deterioration, weight reduction, air traffic management, minimizing non-revenue flying, efficient flight/route planning, take-off, climb, cruise, descent and landing optimization strategies as well as load factor improvement.

Q: Would you say, over the past ten years, that AFRAA lived up to its bidding as Africa’s frontline airline body, and what are the key challenges of AFRAA at the moment?

The fight is still on. The dream never stops. As long as African airlines do not repossess the fair share of their markets almost totally lost to their foreign competitors, the battle must continue.The Association needs to further sensitise African Governments and continental organisations on the burning issues of the airlines which require that a sub-committee of the Ministerial Conference organise itself to periodically hold talks with European Union, the USA and all other emerging economic powers. It is only through bloc-to-bloc negotiation that Africa can rebalance its position on international air transport and have the interests of its airlines appropriately defended.

Q: You have championed the concept of the Club of Ready and Willing States to operationalise the YD. Would you say that AFRAA has done enough to help the implementation of the YD on the continent?

A:I believe AFRAA has put significant effort, time and resources in the promotion of the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. AFRAA played an active role and contributed in the drafting, preparation and negotiation of the Decision. It has played an important advocacy role in promoting the Decision among its members and African Governments.

Following adoption AFRAA was one of the first organisations to convene a continental conference dedicated to the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.

AFRAA is an active member of the various continental and regional organs entrusted with monitoring and supervising of the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision such as the Monitoring Body of the AU, the Air Transport Board of ECOWAS and of COMESA. We have consistently and unwaveringly insisted on the full implementation of the Decision on every opportunity and at all forums.

Unfortunately despite all AFRAA’s efforts implementation has not progressed as we all desire. One of the major stumbling blocks has been, in AFRAA’s view, the disparity in the level of development of air transport among African States. Some States have airlines that are effectively competing not only regionally, but internationally, while others are struggling for survival or some even have no airlines. As a result, we have realised that it may not be practical to expect that all the 53 states implement the Decision at the same time.

Experience in implementation of other programs in the region shows that a differentiated approach where those who are ready and willing lead the way has been successful. That is why in collaboration with NEPAD we propose the CREW. This is not intended to replace the existing continental and regional implementation process but to complement it and kick-start the process. The Club is non-exclusive and open to all those who wish to join at any time, nor is it intended to replace existing organs entrusted with implementation which seems to be the concern of some of the organisations.

We have received positive responses from several governments and NEPAD which together with AFRAA initiated the concept has agreed to launch the Club early 2010.

Q: NEPAD says it is re-branding to focus more on aviation development and working with continental institutions like AFRAA and AFCAC in promoting implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. As you leave office now, what do you think of the expected synergy?

A: From inception, NEPAD was meant to be the economic arm of the African Union which should spearhead the economic development of the continent in all key sectors that naturally include air transport. For years, it has failed to do so. Now that under a new leadership this critical development institution is waking up and showing interest in air transport and AFRAA, we happily welcome them. As I have a personal friendly relationship with the new CEO of NEPAD, I will make sure that I introduce my successor – since I believe that the partnership of AFRAA with NEPAD can bear fruits beyond the YD implementation.

Q: Liberalisation of the air transport industry is becoming popular globally and is spreading to Africa. How should African airlines position for this trend?

A: Liberalization is unstoppable. We ought to organize ourselves to deal with it. AFRAA’s constant recommendation is to consolidate and address the issue of our small size so that with larger carriers or group of airlines we benefit from economies of scale and better cover our continental domestic markets.While the airlines are doing this, the States should refrain from according 5th freedom rights to their international competitors. In most cases, it is impossible for our airlines to enjoy the same facilities overseas.

Q: Considering your efforts to boost funding support for African airlines, would you say the African Development Bank is giving adequate support to African airlines even after the High-Level meeting in Tunis in 2005 with AFRAA on modalities of working better together?

A: It is a strong view of AFRAA that air transport development in Africa requires the setting up of a special airline development fund. The association proposed this project at its Annual General Assembly in Tripoli in 2003 and requested the States to contribute to the funding of the feasibility study. As no progress was made we organized together with African Development Bank and African Union, an airline CEOs High Level meeting in Tunis in 2005 with the objective of further sensitizing the donors through ADF on the need to financially support the airlines as prerequisite infrastructure for the continent’s economic development. Up to now, the message is yet to pass across.

Q: Would you say AFRAA did enough to help address issues of external foreign policies which could adversely affect African airlines such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme, among others?

A: AFRAA scans and monitors regulatory developments internationally particularly in the major aviation markets such as the EU and the US and regularly briefs its members on these developments and their implications to African airlines. Wherever necessary, AFRAA also brings issues related to these developments to the attention of intergovernmental organisations such as the AU, AFCAC and RECs as appropriate.

AFRAA in this context has limitations. As a non-governmental organisation it has no direct access to governments and approaches governments through sister organisations such as AFCAC or the AU and RECs.

AFRAA was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the AU, AFCAC and the RECs the issue of the EU so-called “Community Designation Clause” and its implication to African air transport. It strongly advocated for a common African position on this matter and was instrumental in the preparation of “the AU negotiating guideline” which was adopted by the Ministerial Conference held in Algiers in 2008. Unfortunately despite the great effort and contrary to the strong advice of AFRAA the instrument was adopted as a non binding guideline thereby effectively reducing its usefulness to member States and the airlines.

With regard to the EU-ETS, we have worked closely with AFCAC which has been coordinating a common African approach to the issue. We share the same view with AFCAC on the matter which supports a global approach to aviation emission and opposes a unilateral solution as well as supporting ICAO as the lead organisation in matters relating to aviation and environment.

AFCAC and the African representative in the ICAO Council have been promoting the African position which also is in line with the position of the majority of States other than the EU members.

Despite the near-universal opposition to the inclusion of non-community carriers in the EU scheme the EU has gone ahead and adopted a regulation that imposes its emissions scheme on non-EU airlines effective 2012. Furthermore, in preparation for the planned implementation in 2012, it has directed all airlines to submit their emission reporting plan and data by August 2009. AFRAA, in line with the position of IATA has advised African airlines not to submit their plan under protest unless they are strongly supported by their governments.

We have also called on AFCAC to bring the issue to the attention of their member governments and plan to work together in coordinating a response. In the meantime, we are hopeful that the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009 on Global Environment would provide a clearer directive on aviation emission and bring the EU within a global framework.

Q: A number of African airlines have placed orders for new aircraft, yet many are not doing the same. Would you say the rate of new aircraft acquisition is good enough for the continent to meet its air transport obligations and play effectively in global aviation industry?

A: Indeed, a number of African airlines have placed orders for new aircraft. Some of the aircraft orders are quite impressive and the aircraft manufacturers need to acknowledge the significant market that Africa represents. The list of airlines that have modernized their fleet is long - suffice here to mention a few, namely South African Airways, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Afriqiyah Airways, Libyan Airlines, Tunis Air, LAM Mozambique Airlines, Precision Air, TAAG Angola Airlines and Air Seychelles. Since the African continent is one of the few areas with good growth prospects, aircraft and other suppliers need to facilitate the modernizing of African fleets through availing financing and avoiding the imposition of higher costs since the continent has largely adopted IOSA and many countries have acceded to the Cape Town Convention. There are some airlines that are not renewing their fleet and are still utilizing the aging and fuel-inefficient aircraft. Apart from the higher fuel costs, these old-generation aircraft create adverse impact to the environment not only in terms of greater emissions but also the noise signature. The reason for these carriers not renewing their fleet is largely due to lack of financing because of their small size and small markets. AFRAA has consistently advocated the consolidation of the industry since it is a huge challenge for the small carriers to survive in a highly competitive operating environment. All in all, we are gratified by the new aircraft acquisitions although we still see a lot of room for improvement particularly among the small carriers

Q: As the recession is expected to abate, how can passenger and cargo traffic in Africa be revived, and how can airlines encourage more air travellers in Africa?

A: Despite the recession, the intra-African market is booming and the overall impact of the crisis on African economies tends to be not too heavy. The first move should be to develop more air services across the continent. There is an untapped goldmine on this continental domestic market; in many cases, intra African travellers still continue to transit through Europe to their various destinations. In the cargo business, most Africa airlines are not proactive. These markets ought to be targeted and repossessed. Naturally, AFRAA advocacy is to get all African Governments fully liberalize market access for African carriers so that competition among them drives down air fares and promote intra-African trade, business trips and tourism.

Q: Looking at the progress in the Middle East and Asian markets, how can Africa’s air transport be made more vigorous as an emerging market?

A: In addition to our recommendation here above, Africa should clearly realize that commercial and the business centre of the world is moving east. It is the duty of the airlines to establish the air links that would facilitate African business deal with this new economic power houses. European airlines are overwhelmingly dominating Africa/Europe routes; we have not taken any advantage when the American carriers suspended their operations to Africa till they are now coming back. We should not miss the Asian market opportunities. African airlines must look east right from the Middle East and onwards before the Asian carriers start operating into the continent’s market. Development opportunities are great out there.

Q: As the outgoing AFRAA Secretary General, what is your general assessment and projection for the air transport industry especially the airline industry in Africa?

A: In the northern part of the continent, the airlines will pursue their development and expansion due to the dynamism of their oil and tourism industries. In the coming years, these airlines will all operate across the continent, all the way down to South Africa. A big restructuring of the industry will happen in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South African Airlines will consolidate their operations and overwhelmingly dominate the market. There is room and potentials in West and Central Africa, Nigeria and DRC Congo included, for 2 to 4 other powerful airlines to emerge. All the other African carriers will be restricted in the best case to domestic and intra-regional routes. Even then, their unique choice will be to join an African Alliance grouping or disappear.

Source: Aviation and Allied Business Journal

Forecasts 2010: The only way is up - By Graham Dunn

It says much for the scope of the crisis to engulf the airlines that an industry-wide net loss forecast of $5.6 billion for 2010 marks a significant improvement on the last two years. While the industry has spent much of the last decade in the red, after racking up collective losses of $28 billion over the last two years, including $11 billion for 2009, it does at least indicate the worst may be over.

But the scars of the last two years, together with the uneven course of the global economic recovery and continuing concerns within the industry, means a cautious outlook abounds.

"2009 very quickly got much worse than we were expecting," says IATA chief economist Brian Pearce. IATA's forecast for a 2009 loss of $2.5 billion at this stage last year was swiftly overtaken as the depth of the economic crisis emerged. But while the association has already added $2 billion to its 2010 loss forecast since its September view, it hopes there will be no repeat this year. "It looks as though some of the risks we were facing this time last year we are not facing this year," says Pearce, before noting that what risks there are lie on the downside. Pearce identifies two principle concerns: fuel and yields. "We do expect there to be some improvement but because of the weakness in yields and the increase in fuel prices, we do not expect more than a halving in losses," he says.

High fuel prices were the dominant factor in the losses of 2008 and continued to haunt some in 2009, as they attempted to unwind loss-making hedges. During 2009 the oil price has been far less volatile, but has still crept up, roughly doubling since the start of the year. IATA now predicts an average oil price of around $75 per barrel for 2010, slightly above its projections three months ago.

IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani notes 2010 bears a similarity to 2007, with fuel prices estimated passenger traffic of 2.3 billion roughly at the same level. But IATA expects revenues to rise 5% and reach $478 billion in 2010, crucially around $30 billion shy of the 2007 picture.

This reflects the different yield position. Traffic has been picking up and the sharp year-on-year declines have been replaced by relatively small negatives, though they remain well below 2007 levels. Progress on recovering yields is further behind. "We still have a very long way to go before we get back to positive territory there," says Pearce. "They are still 10-15% below levels of last year. We are passed the low point, but it is a very slow improvement."

So while IATA projects passenger traffic up 4.5% in 2010 and air cargo 7%, it sees only fractional improvement in air cargo yields and no improvement on the passenger side.

"The issue is going to be how long will traffic volumes go up before you see prices going up," notes Chris Tarry, analyst with CTAIRA, adding: "At the moment there is no real upward pressure."

Tarry gives a one word answer to the main challenge for airlines in 2010: capacity. Pearce concurs that managing capacity next year will be key in not stifling the early signs of improving yields and profitability. "Capacity and its potential impact on yields is still, I think, the biggest risk in 2010, mainly because of the very low utilisation of the existing fleet, as well as new capacity being delivered," he says. He notes the global fleet has grown in 2009 and aircraft utilisation was around 6% lower this year than in 2008. Lower utilisation rates increase unit costs, in part contributing to why stronger traffic has not necessarily translated into improved profitability.

At least the economic picture looks more positive for 2010, if a little patchy. Global economic projections for 2010 are for a return to growth. The World Bank in its 2009 Global Outlook summary forecasts 2% growth in world GDP for 2010, followed by 3.2% for 2011, while the United Nations' World Economic Situation and Prospects 2010 report estimates world gross product will grow 2.4% for the 12 months ahead. But it describes the recovery as "uneven" and says conditions for sustained growth "remain fragile".

It sees economic growth strongest in developing nations next year; China and India are forecast to grow 8.8% and 6.5% respectively. By contrast the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development expects growth in most of its economies to "fluctuate around a modest underlying rate for some time to come", held back by the need for businesses, financial institutions, households and governments to repair their balance sheets. The handling of consumer and national debts remain key to the shape of the recovery.

But economic growth does not automatically translate to better airline fortunes. "We have to be very careful looking at the relationship between economic growth and the airline sector. It will vary," says Tarry. "For leisure carriers, for example, its all about what happens to consumer spend."

Pearce adds: "It's a highly cyclical industry. Certainly markets for airline services are highly geared to the economic cycle, so 2.5% GDP growth should mean 4-5% growth in air travel, which is good. But airline fortunes will also depend on how much capacity is chasing that demand and that is where the big risk lies. We could get growth in passenger numbers but it could well be a profitless growth because of low yields and rising fuel prices.

"A lot of the air freight business has been in Asia, so for a lot of airlines in the air cargo business, there is better news there because Asia will be driving this business," he adds. "Much of the passenger business is still largely in Europe, America and across the Atlantic and that is likely to remain weak. That's going to mean for passenger airlines its going to be a very difficult environment unless they can get exposure to growing markets like Asia and Latin America."

Air Cargo Given Year End Lift But Concerns Remain

Airlines around the world are breathing a sigh of relief that there was something like a normal air cargo peak season towards the end of 2009, but there remain profound doubts about the durability of the recovery, writes Peter Conway.

The consensus is that while there was a return to air freight as manufacturers and exporters responded to perceived green shoots in the global economy, 2010 could see demand stagnate again, as high unemployment and a tightening of government spending start to kick in.

Rupert Hogg, director of cargo for Cathay Pacific, points to a number of short-term factors that helped air cargo in the peak season, including the fact that factories in China had sent workers home and so were not able to respond to the revival of demand quickly enough to use sea freight."But looking forward, we see nothing robust enough to make us bring back any of the freighters we have parked in the desert," he says.

Asia was definitely the engine of the recovery, though European carriers such as Cargoluxreported a gratifying rise in Europe to Asia traffic as well, and Latin America was a bright spot for some.

However, no one is claiming that air freight is back where it was pre-crisis. As Bob Dahl, managing director of consultants Air Cargo Management Group, puts it, "flat is the new up", meaning that carriers are happy just to be holding their ground.

He reckons cargo traffic was 15% down in 2009 after a 5% fall in 2008. IATA is a bit more optimistic, saying traffic has recovered about half of the ground it had lost in the crisis. All agree cargo has in effect lost several years worth of growth.

That has implications for capacity. IATA says that 12% of cargo capacity was lost in 2009, but widebody freighter capacity was down 22%. Carriers report that load factors have rebounded and yields improved in recent months, suggesting that capacity and demand are now more in balance.

But Dahl still reckons that the 1,550 freighters still in service are maybe a hundred more than the market needs. With some 15-20 new widebodies due for delivery in 2010 - mainly 777Fs, with a few 747-8Fs and A330Fs, that suggests more freighters might have to be parked, and that those already in the desert could be there for some time yet.

Births, Deaths And Plenty Of Marriages

Despite projections of a bloodbath, especially after the glut of airline collapses in autumn 2008, the number of airline failures in 2009 has been relatively limited by comparison - in the region of 30 so far this year. While the demand crisis certainly took its toll on airline profitability this year, a relenting in record high fuel prices and the gradual easing in liquidity markets no doubt helped many to make it through to the key summer season.

Central European budget carrier SkyEurope, which finally ended a long-battle to stay afloat in the summer, was probably the highest profile casualty during the year. Indeed Europe saw the highest number of airline failures during 2009.

IATA chief economist Brian Pearce notes that many larger carriers have been able to improve their cash position by going to the markets, but that small and mid-sized carriers have been unable to access capital markets as the banks are still not lending. This means they remain financially vulnerable in the present seasonally weak market conditions. "The big airlines have got a cash cushion, but many of the smaller and mid-sized airlines haven't," he says. "This might not be a problem for airlines in robustly growing markets like Asia, but it may well be a problem for airlines in markets with a relatively weak economic recovery and low yields. It will keep cash under pressure particularly in the seasonally weak winter."

Many of the names lost this year stemmed from the consolidation process, such as Air Onemerging into Alitalia and the Clickair brand going in the merger with Vueling.

Indeed merger activity dominated much of the first half of the year, notably Lufthansa's spending spree which saw it take on Star Alliance partners Austrian Airlines, bmi andBrussels Airlines to join Swiss within the group, while later British Airways and Iberia finally reached agreement on their merger.

But as the year closed, and moving into 2010, much of the focus is on alliance pacts; American and BA hoping to finally secure approval for a transatlantic pact, while American and Delta continue their tug of war for Japan Airlines on behalf of oneworld and SkyTeam respectively.

Start-ups were in short supply during 2009, but Lufthansa was also involved in two of the most high profile new carriers; launching Milan-based Lufthansa Italia in February and the Aerologic cargo joint venture with DHL Express in June.

Source:Airline Business

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Air Transport Records Worst-Ever Performance in 2009

Scheduled passenger traffic on airlines of Member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) declined some 3.1 percent overall in 2009 compared to 2008, according to preliminary figures released today by the Organization.

The decline is the largest on record for the industry and reflects the one percent drop in the world gross domestic product for the year, the first negative growth of the global economy since the great depression of 1929. In 2001, passenger traffic fell by 2.9 percent, due in part to the terrorist attacks of 11 September on the United States.

International traffic fell by about 3.9 percent while domestic traffic fell by 1.8 percent. Total (international and domestic) traffic declined in all regions except for the Middle East, where carriers posted a strong 10 percent growth.

The double-digit domestic passenger traffic growth in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, and the relative strong performance of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, helped curtail the severity of the decline in total traffic.

Capacity offered by airlines, expressed in available seat kilometres (ASKs), declined by 3.1%, in response to the declining traffic.

In line with the improving economic situation in many parts of the world, a moderate recovery is expected for 2010 with a 3.3 percent traffic growth forecast. The momentum is expected to continue in 2011, on the way to full recovery and traditional growth trends of 5.5 percent per year.

In 2009, cargo traffic plummeted by 15 percent in terms of total freight tonne kilometres (FTK) compared to 2008, significantly worse than the 6.2 percent drop in 2001. The magnitude of the change is also indicative of the huge decrease in world trade volumes in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

The cargo traffic of Asia Pacific carriers, which accounts for some 36% of global FTKs, declined by around 14 percent, while traffic of European and North American carriers that each account for 25% share of global FTKs dropped by some 18% and 17% respectively.

Source: ICAO
Statistics used by ICAO are provided by Member States of the Organization.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

AFRAA calls for tighter security at African airports

The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has called for the tightening of security in African airports.

It has also urged the global aviation watchdog, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to step in to boost security at African airports.

â?The failed Christmas terrorist attack, attempted on by a passenger, whose tra vel originated from Africa, is a serious waking call for African Civil Aviation a nd Airport Authorities,â? AFRAA Secretary-General Christian Folly-Kossi, said in a statement sent to PANA on Saturday.

The United States has called for an overhaul of airport security in the wake of the Christmas Day botched terrorist attack, carried out by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national who is reported to have been radicalised in Yemen after his recruitment into a global terror network.

Folly-Kossi said African airports had some of the worst security arrangements, which had permited the existence of illegal activity, mostly at the exit gates, further compromising aviation security.

â?Security is deadly loose in many African Airports. So far very few of them have qualified as 'FAA category 1' airports,â? Folly-Kossi said in a statement sent from Stockholm, Sweden, where is attending a business meeting.

Most African airports have not achieved the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One status, which means that their security has not met the ICAO status. The US uses this to gauge which airports its airlines can operate from.

The AFRAA outgoing Secretary-General said aviation security needs to be enhanced across the continent.

He said the failure by most African airports to meet the FAA Category One status was evidence of the need to heighten security in Africa.

â?This stands as a blunt evidence of the dire need for African Civil Aviation and airports to beef up their security,â? he noted.

The failure by most African airports to achieve the Category One Status implies that the countries lack laws or regulations necessary to support the certification and oversight of air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards.

It also implies that the countryâ?s civil aviation authority lacks the technica l expertise, resources, and organization to license or oversee air carrier opera t ions, according to FAA.

Most African countries and civil aviation authorities do not have adequately trained and qualified technical personnel and do not provide adequate inspector guidance to ensure enforcement of, and compliance with, minimum international standards.

In some circumstances, the civil aviation authority has insufficient documentati on and records of certification and inadequate continuing oversight and surveillance of air carrier operations.

Folly-Kossi said international community and the donors must come up with measures to assist African states to tackle the airport lapses.

â?AFRAA recommends that ICAO imposes more stringent security standards on African airports and forces them to heighten their security even if their vocation is not to be exit gates for flights destined to the United States of America,â? he said.

â?In this new era of intensive terrorism threats across the globe, Africa ought to play safe and avoid providing easy in-gates for criminal activities in the global aviation.â?

He reiterated that the international community and development donors should get more sensitized and assist for the earliest achievement of this objective.

Ghana’s democratic credentials put country up on tourism rankings

Ghana for the first time has been included in the list of developing countries that attract tourists based on ethical values, a new report released by Ethical Traveller has said.
Ghana ranks fourth among the ten developing countries. These are: Argentina, Belize, Chile, Ghana, Lithuania, Namibia, Poland, Seychelles, South Africa and Suriname.
Ethical Traveler’s report, “The World’s Best Ethical Destinations” identifies the 10 countries in the developing world that are best protecting their natural environments, promoting responsible travel, and building a tourism industry which provides real benefits to local communities.
Ethical Traveler is a project of the Earth Island Institute, based in San Francisco.

The organization has experts with a broad range of expertise in the fields of travel, environment, economy, health and world policy, it says on its website.
According to the report, Ghana joins the 2010 list due to an impressive commitment to genuine democracy, as well as a growing culture of sustainability, environmental consciousness and grassroots efforts towards responsibly improving Ghana for Ghanaians and tourists alike.
Ghana is the third most important tourist destination in West Africa, according to Luigi Cabrini.
Mr. Cabrini, who is Director, Sustainable Development of Tourism of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) said these when he addressed stakeholders in the tourism sector in Ghana.
He said Ghana comes third after Nigeria and Senegal in the sub-region in terms of international arrivals, the GNA has reported.

According to Mr. Cabrini, international tourist arrivals for 2007 was 587,000 whiles tourism receipts for the same year amounted to $908 million with an average annual growth rate between 2000–2007 pegged at 5.7 percent.

Ghana’s Minister of Tourism has also said that the sector is the fourth highest foreign exchange earner for Ghana, and the country earned a total of $1.3 billion in 2008.
According to a B&FT report, projected tourists arrivals for 2008 was pegged at 698,069 with receipts in monetary value amounting to US$1.2 million, as against 586,612 arrivals in 2007 amounting to US$1.17 million.
This, the newspaper said, reflects a consistent increase in tourism revenue over the years.
In 2005 the country earned US$836 million from tourism.
The income generated from these arrivals grew at an even stronger rate, 11.2% annually for the same period, hitting US$680 million in 2005.

The hospitality industry, particularly hotels, had the largest chunk of the revenue ­taking up 34 percent of the expended income, while the transportation and food sectors had 11 percent each with the entertainment industry enjoying eight per cent, it said.
Domestic tourism last year saw a total of 417,558 arrivals to the country, comprising 303,668 residents visiting 25 tourist sites and 113, 890 non-residents patronising domestic tourism.

The figures indicate that Ghana has not yet hit the intended one million tourists target earmarked in 2007 to coincide with the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, since Ghana boasts of many landmark castles and sites used in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The target was developed to make tourism the leading sector of the economy through foreign exchange earnings and employment creation.
Currently, tourism is one of the fastest growing sector in the economy and is expected to grow at an average rate of 4.1 % per annum over the next two decades.

SOURCE: By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi of the Ghana Business news.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Arik Air carries four million passengers

Arik Air today announced that it has carried a cumulative total of four million guests since the airline's launch at the end of October 2006. Arik Air also announced that it carried 42% more guests during the period 21 December 2009 through 3 January 2010 compared with the same period a year earlier.
In announcing the significant milestone in the airline's growth, Arik Air's Managing Director, Mr Jason Holt, said it speaks volumes about the investment, experience and skill that have driven the airline to the position it occupies today - Nigeria's most important commercial airline, West Africa's largest and one of Africa's fastest growing.

Mr Holt continued: "In November 2009, Arik Air launched the first non-stop flights in a decade by a Nigerian carrier between Lagos and New York, re-connecting Nigeria's commercial hub with one of the world's foremost centres for international business. The airline also launched its first long haul services from Abuja to London Heathrow and expanded services between Nigeria and West Coast markets. At the end of October 2009, when the airline celebrated its third anniversary, Arik Air had carried three and half million guests and just two months later, that figure has risen by half a million. Arik Air has been the success story of Nigerian commercial aviation. That is set to continue and there is much to achieve. During 2010, the airline plans to expand its market share in Nigeria to 66 percent, up from the current 40 percent and expects to carry six million guests by the end of the year."

Arik Air's Chief Commercial Officer, Mr Suraj Sundaram explained that one factor contributing to the increase in the number of guests carried at the end of 2009 was the airline's response to the high level of seasonal demand before and after the Christmas and New Year holiday period. "Offering services to 22 destinations within Nigeria, Arik Air was able to bring more Nigerian families together during the festive season than any other carrier. The special Christmas flight program that commenced from Monday, December 21, 2009 saw an increase in capacity from our two hubs of Lagos and Abuja, to Enugu, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri and Calabar. Arik Air also provided additional capacity and extra flights to bring guests back to Lagos and Abuja after the Christmas and New Year festivities."
Mr Sundaram added: "The increased capacity meant that the airline operated a total of 1,169 flights between December 21, 2009 and January 3, 2010 representing a 20 percent increase over the same period in the preceding year. Allowing for regular flights and the additional flights, Arik Air carried a total of 75,687 guests during the festive season, 42% more than during the same period a year earlier."

Monday, January 4, 2010

NEWS FLASH- Xmas bomber was in Ghana for 2 weeks

Officials in Ghana said Monday that suspected airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent more than two weeks in that country before mounting his attempted Christmas attack on a Northwest Airlines flight, but said they didn't know how Mr. Abdulmutallab spent his time there or who he met with.

Ghanaian officials also criticized U.S. and U.K. officials for not sharing information about Mr. Abdulmutallab before his arrival in Ghana.

The Ghanaian government said Mr. Abdulmutallab arrived in Accra on December 9, earlier than was previously believed. He stayed for just over two weeks before flying to Lagos to board his flight to Amsterdam, where he connected to another Detroit-bound flight that he attempted to attack with explosives sewn into his underpants.

Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa said that Mr. Abdulmutallab arrived at 3:20 a.m. on December 9, on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Dubai via Addis Ababa. As a citizen of the West African economic bloc Ecowas, Mr. Abdulmutallab is allowed to stay in Ghana for up to 90 days without a visa.

He was processed without any problems because the Ghanaian government had not been alerted about a possible threat from Mr. Abdulmutallab, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said. Mr. Abdulmutallab's father had alerted U.S. and Nigerian authorities to his concern about his son's growing extremism, and British officials, in May 2009, denied Mr. Abdulmutallab a student visa to re-enter that country, where he had graduated from university in 2008.

"What we have concerned about has been the lack of sharing information," he said. "We had been working closely with American and British partners, our global partners, but nobody at any point in time shared information about any such Abdulmutallab. When the incident happened it came as a surprise to all of us."

According to the government, Mr. Abdulmutallab wrote on his immigration form that he would be staying at the Holiday Inn in Accra, but checked into another hotel in town. Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa declined to name the hotel, saying that the government was concerned about harming its business. He said security officials had spoken with the hotel management and people in the area, but that so far they had not turned up anything that suggested possible criminal activity.

During his stay in Accra, Mr. Abdulmutallab kept a low profile, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said. "So far we have not had any indication that he engaged with people generally," he said. "He wasn't seen walking around. He appeared to have kept a rather quiet and private life. So far we have not stumbled on who he met with, or whether he met with anybody."

Ghanaian officials confirmed an earlier statement from Nigerian officials that Mr. Abdulmutallab had purchased his ticket to the U.S. in cash at a KLM office. At some point, he also purchased a one-way ticket in cash from Accra to Lagos, Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said.

After 13 days in Accra, he boarded Virgin Nigeria flight 804 from Accra to Lagos on December 24, which departed at 5:06 p.m. "He filled the immigration forms on the flight," he said. "I have all those on the form before me so I know he was on the flight." He said the Ghanaian officials were trying to discern why Mr. Abdulmutallab chose to return to Lagos rather than fly to the U.S. from Ghana.

"We have numerous flights to Amsterdam from here," said Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa. "There's even a direct flight to the USA from Delta Airlines. This has remained baffling, why he went to Lagos before beginning a new journey." Mr. Okudzeto-Ablakwa said that Ghanaian officials had tightened security since the incident and plan to install full-body scanners at Kotoka International Airport in Accra.