Flydubai has announced three new East African routes, while Emirates Airline has partnered with Nigeria’s Arik Air to widen its access to West Africa, with both Gulf carriers expressing little reticence over the impact of Ebola and instead looking to long-term goals in the region.
The Dubai carrier is launching its new routes in September 2014 to Bujumbura in Burundi, Entebbe in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda, bringing it up to a total of nine destinations in Africa, out of a total of 80 destinations covered by the carrier’s network worldwide.
“We are delighted to announce the new East African destinations, which see flydubai become the first national carrier from the UAE to fly to Rwanda and Burundi, underlining our commitment to open up underserved markets,” noted Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai.
Flydubai’s service to Burundi will also bring the first business class option to the route between Dubai and Burundi, strengthening the carrier’s position within emerging markets.
Al Gaith added that flydubai has announced a total of 17 new destinations since the start of 2014, already matching the total number of destinations launched from the previous year, and the carrier has also obtained the right to carry passengers between Uganda and Burundi.
Emirates Airline has meanwhile signed a partnership agreement with Nigeria’s Arik Air, which operates from Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria and covers both domestic routes and regional routes as far as Johannesburg, aimed at opening up these routes to the Gulf carrier.
“We intend to explore the potential of codeshare arrangements as passenger traffic flows mature between both networks,” said Adnan Kazim, senior VP for planning at Emirates, and the airlines are also considering expanding their partnership to frequent flyer programmes and cargo handling.
Will Horton at the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), told the National: “Arik Air still has much to fulfil on its own before it could consider being a savvy strategic partner for any major carrier, but Nigeria is an important market and constrained by the aeropolitical environment.”
Arik Air became the first airline to link the Nigerian capital to Dubai in June, scheduling five direct weekly flights from Abuja in a move defying statements from African aviation body AFRAA that excessive taxation was ruining the competitiveness of African airlines over their Gulf rivals.
A month ago, Emirates and Arik Air also cut flights to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak, and their new agreement could be in part be an attempt by the carriers to make up for lost business by branching out and accelerating their business plans in other directions.