The Congolese newcomer took to the air last Friday at Kinshasa N’djili Airport, much applauded by local celebrities and members of a large government delegation. With a paid-up capital of US$ 65 million, two passenger Airbus A320 had been purchased from Alitalia. At the beginning, only domestic routes will be serviced with regional African flights to follow once the fleet is expanded. Cargo carriage should be an issue as well but is not yet communicated by the start-up.
The first aircraft, “Patrice-Emery Lumumba” took to the air in the early morning last Friday, followed by “Mzee Kabila” an hour later. Since then the names of two former Congolese presidents,
both assassinated by political opponents, adorn the skies over the Congolese State, displayed on the hulls of the two Airbus aircraft.
During “Mzee Kabila’s” first landing at Goma governor Julien Paluku said that the Congolese airline offers many opportunities, having a positive impact on the economy and on jobs at North Kivu Province. The politician added to this: "These flights are a strategic step in the process of further internationalizing Goma and will put the city on the map as a major economic and touristic Congolese destination.”
Congo Airways is the government’s second attempt to establish a state-run national carrier after the short life of its 1997 incepted predecessor Lignes Aériennes Congolaises that went out of business only six years later in 2003.
And even prior to the first flight last week it created its first victim, Korongo Airlines that ceased operations recently not only due to a severely damaged aircraft but primarily as consequence of the private owners’ decision not to spend any further funds in the Lubumbashi-based carrier in view of the upcoming state-supported competitor Congo Airways.
Starting with domestic flights
With no serious local rival in sight, the prospect for the start-up seems to be positive if managed according to market demand and not by the politician’s needs.
At the beginning, with only two aircraft belonging to the fleet, the initial network serviced by the carrier is quite limited, encompassing Congolese cities like Goma, Kisangani or Lubumbashi. However, this might change soon since the airline announced adding two more A320s to their fleet as well as two not yet specified turboprop aircraft for providing commuter services.
AF is pulling the strings behind the scenes …
Acting behind the scenes is advisor Air France Consulting that set up the Congolese newcomer’s business and strategic plans similar to their involvement in the 2012 initiated launch of Air Côte d’Ivoire, the flag carrier of the Ivory Coast. Ever since, Air France holds 20 percent in the capital of the airline, with the government of Ivory Coast owning the majority.
…so are LH and Swiss Partner Air at ECAir
If Congo Airways will follow the same path getting AF-KL as financial and business partner on board remains to be seen. This is especially interesting since at Brazzaville, located opposite of Kinshasa at the northern shore of the Congo River, Lufthansa Consulting is actively supporting Equatorial Congo Airlines.
The carrier operates mainly in Sub-Sahara Africa but conducts flights to Paris and Dubai, too, offering the cargo industry utilizing the capacity of the aircraft’s holds. ECAir’s fleet comprises of seven units all belonging to Switzerland-based Privat Air that teamed up with LH Consulting to get ECAir off the ground. Responsible ULD manager is Lufthansa Cargo subsidiary Jettainer.
As to Congo Airways, nothing is said on their website up to this point what role cargo is playing within their strategy. Maybe they just forgot to place this issue on their homepage, as they did with pictures showing the launching flights of “Patrice-Emery Lumumba” and “Mzee Kabila” at Kinshasa Airport.