Photo: Abidjan.net / AFP
Earlier this year, Air Côte d’Ivoire placed an order with Airbus for three A320neos and two A320s, the Ivorian national airline becoming the first African airline to order the A320neo.
CEO, René Décurey, explained that this demonstrated the airline’s commitment to accelerate its growth in western and central Africa, which has already resulted in it tripling passenger numbers over the past three years.
The airline’s fleet now comprises four A319s, one A320 and four leased Bombardier Q400s. The first A320neo is scheduled for delivery in July 2017.
Air Côte d’Ivoire was established in 2012 and Swiss-born Décurey has headed the company ever since. He has considerable experience of working in Africa as he was involved with the ‘Aviation in Africa’ project, part of Aga Khan’s Fund for Economic Development.
According to Décurey, the A320neo is economic and ideal for operating airline’s routes. Air Côte d’Ivoire has, thus, attempted to solve two major constraints of flying around Africa – maintenance and fuel prices. He also said maintenance is a major issue as spare parts can take at least 24 hours to arrive, meaning that even a relatively simple technical problem can result in an aircraft-on-ground (AOG) situation.
The carrier has a partnership with Air France for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). The French company also holds a 10% stake in the airline.
Air France flies daily to the capital, Abidjan, where aviation fuel costs are, on average, two-and-a-half times less than at some other network locations.
These new aircraft will strengthen the company’s network that comprises 19 regional destinations located in west and central Africa – Abuja, Accra, Bamako, Brazzaville, Conakry, Cotonou, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Kinshasa, Lagos, Libreville, Lome, Monrovia, N’Djamena Niamey, Ouagadougou, Pointe Noire and Yaoundé – and domestic routes including Abidjan, San Pedro, Man, Bouake, Korongo, and Odienne.
The Abidjan/Abuja route opened earlier this year with three weekly flights.
Décurey confirmed that the airline would open two new routes, to Bangui and Rwanda, before the end of 2016.
Air Côte d’Ivoire also considers network flexibility to be vital, setting-up two daily transit waves at its Abidjan hub – the first to west Africa and a second to central Africa – making it practically the only airline in west Africa to offer passengers a return trip in the same day.
To support this growth, Air Côte d’Ivoire plans to finance the acquisition of the new aircraft through its own, and its shareholders’, funds.
Once the airline receives its International Air Transport Association operational safety audit (IOSA) certification, hopefully this autumn, it is intended to pursue codeshare arrangements both in the region and elsewhere in the continent through its links with the SkyTeam Alliance through its partner and shareholder, Air France.