An African airline’s recent aircraft order with aerospace firm Bombardier, together with other positive growth developments for Tanzania’s Fastjet and other emerging aviation entities, show African aviation is making serious headway against adverse market forces.

In the Bombardier Aerospace deal, the firm announced at the Farnborough International Airshow that an unidentified African airline had signed a letter of intent (LOI) to acquire five of the company’s C-Series airliners, representing the first domestic customer  on the continent for the company.

Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, noted that, “the exceptional fuel efficiency and wide-body passenger comfort that only the C-Series aircraft can provide in an airplane of its size were key factors in our customer’s decision to select the C-Series in a region where fuel prices are quite high.”

The deal also pushed the C-Series past the 500 mark for orders and commitments, and Bombardier’s executives pointing to the aircraft’s outstanding flexibility and operational efficiencies as key within emerging markets, particularly for the 100 to 149-seat bracket.

In another growth sign and a signficant carrier development, Dar es Salaam low-cost airline Fastjet has increased its number of regional flights, adding four more weekly return flights to Mwanza in Tanzania, a new route to Zimbabwe’s Harare and an additional weekly return flight to Lusaka.

Chief commercial officer, Richard Bodin, highlighted that, “Fastjet has been the dominant operator on the important Dar es Salaam-Mwanza route for some time and these extra rotations will give our passengers greater choice and flexibility when travelling.”

He noted that the increase to four weekly Zambia demonstrated that the market was “embracing Fastjet’s service and prices,” and provided a “solid foundation” for a planned domestic operation in Zambia, and for which it soon expects to obtain government approval.

Highs and lows

There was also some bad news for the established industry on the continent, with a report by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) estimating that Nigeria’s aviation industry is currently losing $15bn to international airlines annually, in both cargo and passenger flights.

This sum is equivalent to 31% of Nigeria’s annual income from oil, explained AON executive chairman Nogie Meggison, who pointed to the huge capital flight from the country’s sector as being central to the problem and called for a significant shift away from this status quo.

Emirates Airline meanwhile began direct flights to Abuja this month, adding the destination as its 21st non-stop route in Africa and its second in Nigeria after Lagos, though national carrier Arik Air is pushing back, having first launched the route with five weekly flights between the two cities in July.

Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, Arik Air’s global CEO, noted: “Becoming the first airline to link the capital Abuja to Dubai is an exciting moment for us all, and it is also just as imperative to link Dubai as the Middle East’s commercial capital to Lagos as Nigeria’s commercial capital.”

Across in East Africa, the emerging Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) is also expecting to experience a 24% increase in passenger traffic this year, while South Africa Airways is addressing issues of foreign competition by working to expand its partnership with Emirates or Etihad.