“Air transport is the main catalyst for economic development and the people’s well-being.” A statement issued by Fatima Beyina-Moussa in her welcoming address to the 500 participants of the recent Annual Assembly of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) held in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. She is the first woman to become acting President of this 46-member airline club for a one year term. Fatima is also one of the rare female top managers who runs an airline, in this case the Brazzaville-based ECAir.
Boeing Dreamliner is coming
In her introductory remarks at the 47th AFRAA meeting, Mrs Beyina-Moussa delivered an overview over the performance of her carrier formed in 2011. From the first flight until today more than one million passengers have been transported. The fleet comprises seven aircraft that serve 14 domestic Congolese, regional African and three intercontinental routes (Paris, Dubai, and Beirut). Next year the network will be further expanded when ECAir welcomes its first Boeing 787 jetliner at its home base Brazzaville Maya-Maya Airport.
Particularly noteworthy is the large number of African Airlines that ECAir partners with, Fatima pointed out. “This way we improve intra-continental connectivity for passengers and offer more options for the seamless flow of air freight goods.” Next on the agenda is Kenya Airways “which we will soon start collaborating with,” announced Fatima.
Cargo is still a niche product
So far, cargo contributes only a small portion to ECAir’s total turnover, admits Youri Busaan, ECAir’s Director Cargo. “Air freight is a supplementing business, contributing only marginally to our revenues,” he states. Nevertheless, things have already become better. “We are primarily a passenger driven airline but with the arrival of our Boeing 767 last year, air freight carriage has become increasingly important,” he holds.
ECAir decided quite early to outsource their cargo business completely, handing over all responsibilities to general sales agent Kales Airline Services after a public tender. The deal inked by
both sides includes a transfer of knowledge from the local Kales staff to ECAir employees, sharing the same office at Brazzaville’s Maya-Maya Airport.
In practice, Kales takes exclusive care of all cargo related issues, including sales and marketing activities, the handling of shipments, all insurance topics or the provision of pallets at airports served by the ECAir fleet.
Supplementing cargo services
Touching the cargo perspectives of the state-owned Congolese newcomer, Youri is cautiously optimistic. He outlines a cooperative strategy, offering some of the larger intercontinental players regional feeder services via ECAir’s highly modern Brazzaville hub. Intra-African connectivity is something the big boys lack since the traffic rights allow them only to fly point-point, linking their outside of Africa located gateways with cities like Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg or Addis Ababa, to name but a few. But traffic rights for carrying passengers and air freight between – say – Lomé and Dakar or Cairo and Kinshasa - none of them possesses.
Secondly, Youri points out that cargo tonnage will go up once ECAir gets additional aircraft and hence more lower deck capacity to carry shipments. The manager concludes: “We will further develop our air freight business along with our core activities on the passenger side.” Special strategic and operational emphasis, he leaves no doubt, will be laid on strengthening his carrier’s traffic on regional and local routes.