Hadi Akoum, Airbus sales VP for sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Indian Ocean spoke to Michael Wakabi.
Airbus has made a comeback in Africa. What is behind the renewed interest?
I would not call it a return because, compared with the competition, Airbus is a young company.
Traditionally, in Africa, many airlines used to operate secondhand aircraft. It took us some time to get a foothold here, but Africa has become an increasingly technology savvy continent, so when airlines finally made the move to Airbus, they found them to be modern, efficient and reliable.
African airlines are very aware of the operational and economic benefits of acquiring new and modern aircraft. Since 2016, we have seen Africa’s first A350 with Ethiopian Airlines followed by Air Mauritius, Air Senegal and RwandAir that have ordered A330neo. Air Cote d’Ivoire was the first airline to order the A320neo.
Looking at the potential market for air services in Africa, one sees thin routes in many places. Embraer have around 150 aircraft here and Bombardier are also doing well. Airbus does not have a product in that range. Is this a limitation as to how much business you can do with the continent?
We have recently partnered with Bombardier and now own a 50.01 per cent majority stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership. The A220 fills an important niche — covering the segment that typically accommodates 100-150 seats — and responding to a worldwide aviation market for smaller single-aisle jetliners estimated at some 7,000 such aircraft over the next 20 years.
Who operates the A380 and would it be the natural choice on some of the trunk routes in Africa?
Many airlines operate the A380 on African routes: Emirates serves Mauritius with the A380; you have a daily and sometimes twice daily Air France A380 service to Abidjan; and so many A380s 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.
How many Airbus aircraft do African airlines have?
Around 30 African airlines operate 237 aircraft, while several other carriers operate leased or pre-owned Airbus aircraft.
We are looking forward to many deliveries for African airlines in the coming years, Air Mauritius will receive the first of two A330neos later this year; RwandAir and Air Senegal, who have also chosen the A330neo will receive it in 2019. We are also looking forward to deliver Air Seychelles an A320neo and Uganda Airlines A330neo.
The A330-800neo has been a slow seller. What are its prospects her on?
The A330neo programme, which comprises the A330-800 and A330-900 variants, received 224 firm orders from 14 customers around the world between its launch in July 2014 and the end of last month.
At the Farnborough Airshow this year, Airbus received orders and commitments for an additional 42 of the aircraft — including two for Uganda Airlines for the A330-800.
The A330neo is the latest version of the A330, which is one of the most prolific, popular and versatile widebody jetliners in the history of commercial air transport. The A330neo’s growing popularity is attributable to its technological advances, which include using the latest engines and wing design, to achieve enhanced performance.
As a result, the A330neo delivers up to 25 per cent fuel savings per seat and an overall cost advantage of up to 15 per cent over its closest rival.
The A330 is the perfect aircraft for Africa, as the aircraft can efficiently serve markets on sectors from as short as 30 minutes, to over 15 hours flying time — making them true long-range capable aircraft, without penalising their short-to-medium range regional operations.