A330-900 receives European certification
September 27, 2018- After losing Kenya Airways as a customer during the early 2000’s, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has registered considerable market success in Africa over the past seven years, recruiting 30 new airlines customers and pushing its unit count on the continent to nearly 240 commercial aircraft.
Speaking to www.256businessnews on the side-lines of Mauritius Aviation Day on September18, Airbus Vice President Sales Sub-Sahara Africa and Southern Indian Ocean Mr. Hadi Akoum, said Africa’s new appetite for modern technology, was driving the new interest in Airbus products. Additionally, the airframer who has been around for only about fifty years, did not have a product in the 100 seat range that suited many African routes where the competitions legacy Boeing 737 and Douglas Corporation’s DC9 were the workhorses.
“We are a relatively young company compared to the competition which has been around for a century. Also, in the past, many African airlines used to operate second hand aircraft. In the market twenty or thirty years ago, you were more likely to find aircraft from the competition because many airlines on the continent had a traditional relationship with those companies.
Today, the company boasts 237 aircraft in service in the continent operated by 30 airlines. Its signature A350 has garnered orders by Ethiopian Airlines and Air Mauritius while its’ A330-neo, featuring new generation Rolls-Royce power plants has been ordered by Rwandair, Air Senegal, Air Mauritius and Uganda Airlines. The latter order is for the smaller -800 variant while the rest are for the larger -900. Air Mauritius will be the first airline in the world to fly the A350 and the A330 neo side by side. Meanwhile Air Cote d’Ivoire became the first customer for the A320neo, the latest generation narrowbody.
Airbus was formally established in 1967 and went on to launch its first product, the pioneering A300 in 1969. The world’s first twin engine widebody aircraft it made its maiden flight in October 1972 and entered services with Air France in May 1974.
While the manufacturer registered a number of customers including Kenya Airways and Air Mauritius in the mid-eighties and nineties, the past 15 years have been particularly productive. During that period, Airbus has converted a number of customers to its stable including South African Airways that placed an order for 41 aircraft in 2001. The company made a major coup again when major Boeing customer Ethiopian placed an order for 13 A350’s in 2014. The carrier made a follow-on order for another 12 of the type bring its total order-book to 25 units.
“Airlines around the world are increasingly choosing to operate Airbus aircraft and if you look back to the past 15 years, Airbus market share was slightly higher than the competition in the market for brand new aircraft and that is why today we have an order backlog of over 7000 aircraft, which is higher than the competition,” says Akoum.
With sustained economic growth and a population that will soon cross the billion line, Airbus sees passenger traffic from and to Africa increasing at 4.9pc annually over the next twenty years. The continent will need well over 1,100 new passenger and freighter aircraft to meet that demand.
Some of those aircraft may be ordered by non-African carriers who account for a significant chunk of African air traffic. Africas’ skies are also gradually opening up, releasing the potential demand for air services. The leaders of two dozen countries signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market SATM in February, an initiative that is expected to remove restrictions on air services between African states.
Previously constrained by having aircraft that were too big for some of the thin sectors on the continent, Airbus now sees an opportunity in the 100 seat segment through its majority stake in Bombardier C Series programme that has been re-designated as the A220.
Although Airbus ultimately lost its single African order for the double-deck A380 when Air Austral opeted out an order for two units, it is optimistic about the type’s prospects on the continent.
“Many airlines are operating the A380 on Africa routes, Emirates serves Mauritius with the A380, you have a daily and sometimes twice daily Air France A380 service to Abidjan, and so many A380’s landing in Johannesburg every day. Abidjan and Mauritius are not big hubs and this demonstrates the A380’s capacity to operate wherever the traffic is good,” Akoum says.
Markets such as Nigeria and South Africa where atleast four airlines already operate the type are also promising candidates. In eastern Africa, Addis Ababa which will join the world’s aviation megacities within the next 5 years, could also become a candidate for the double-decker airliner. Megacities are airports that handle more than 10,000 long haul passengers daily. There are currently 58 such cities in the world.
A330-900 receives European certification
Meanwhile, the A330 -900 neo is set to enter service with TAP Air Portugal next month after receiving European Certification. The variant received its Type Certificate yesterday from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after a flight test campaign lasting 1400 hours. Reciprocal Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification is expected to follow in the coming days.
“The A330neo embodies Airbus’ spirit of innovation. This new generation aircraft with unparalleled efficiency and flexibility from short to long haul routes has tremendous market potential,” said Guillaume Faury, President Airbus Commercial Aircraft.
The A330-900’s smaller sibling, the A330-800, is also expected to make its first flight in the coming weeks. The A330-900 consumes 25pc less fuel than older generation airliners in its class.
Airbus has received over 1,700 orders from 120 customers for the A330 so far and more than 1,400 A330’s are in service with airlines.