AFRAA AGM: Kenya operator calls for consolidation

A Kenyan airline CEO has encouraged airlines in East Africa to think again about consolidation of national carriers to break down barriers to travel through the region.

Alex Avedi - consolidation would open the market and allow Africans to travel more affordably. Image: Marcelle Nethersole)

Alex Avedi, CEO of Wilson Airport-based Safarilink Aviation said that the airline industry – particularly among the national carriers was fragmented and as such could never compete with the assets and capacity of international carriers.

Each of the carriers across the former East Africa Community have just a handful of widebody aircraft.

Speaking at the CEO panel at the AFRAA annual general assembly, Avedi said: “On average, African carriers only have like six aircraft. The truth of the matter is, we are still so obsessed with flag carriers. Look at Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania all setting up, their own widebody fleets.

“But it is all very fragmented. If you look at the days of the East African Community it's tougher. We have limited resources. We have all these delusions of grandeur  with our fleet of six, and Middle Eastern airlines are coming in with hundreds of widebodies. We call it dumping capacity, but all it is really is capacity.

“We will never be able to play the game,” he said.

Avedi said creating a liberalised market – or bringing back an East African community would make massive savings for passengers, Kenyan domestic charges are around $4 but crossing a neighbouring border sees charges rise to $50 or $60.

The difference would compare a domestic flight to Mombasa costing $160 return, while the same flight time to neighbouring Tanzania would see tickets costing more than $300.

“Each night 15 buses take passengers the 12 hour trek from Kampala to Nairobi. That journey could be done by plane in an hourif we can open the way and drop the charges,” he said.

Kenya Airways CEO, Allan Kilavuka responded from the floor saying he agreed with Avedi.

“Consolidation of this fragmented aviation industry is critical for sustainability of aviation,” he said. “I was reading an article about Europe, Europe is consolidating more such as Air France, KLM and SAS. But in Africa, what are we doing? in fact the subscale aviation industry that we have in this continent grows, and we are our own enemies.”