Weather Report For Cities In Nigeria 10th January, 2016

Weather report of cities across Nigeria and what the weather is like in other cities around the world.

Since launching regional and intercontinental services in October 2012, Gambia Bird, West Africa’s newest flag-carrier, has encountered more than its fair share of obstacles.

Gambia Birds inability to gain traffic rights to Lagos remains a major setback, forcing a rethink of early plans for a high-frequency service to the Nigerian metropolis.

The prospect, however remote, of Islamist rebellions spreading from Mali across the wider Sahel region is another cause for concern, rattling some European travelers.

But for Gambia Birds management team-comprising chief executive officer Thomas Wazinski,chief commercial officer Karsten Balke ,and chief administration officer Malleh Sallah-the dream of unifying and expanding west Africa’s fragmented air infrastructure is inching ever closer to reality.

With a fleet of two new Airbus A319s and an EASA-certified line station manned by Germania Technik Branderburg (GTB), they hope to transform this silver-shaped country into a major player in West Africa aviation.

“In the short and medium-term our vision is to raise the aviation industry to a level that is A-class within the sub-region,” explained Sallah.”Long -term, we want to turn Gambia into one of the capital) has the opportunity based on its location to be an intercontinental hub.”

The idea for Gambia Bird spawned from Wazinskis earlier, unsuccessful attempt to establish a new carrier in Ghana-a country that has since given rise to the likes of Starbow and African World Airlines.

After teaming up with Sallah and securing the political backing of Gambia’s president, Yayha Jammeh, Wazinski oversaw a deal that granted Germania 90% ownership of the new airline venture. President Jammehs willingness to hand over majority control of his flag-carrier to a foreign partner was a shrewd move, side-stepping many of the pitfalls faced by other start-ups.

EASA certification lies at the core of Gambia Birds proposition as a west Africa airline with European safety standards.”To set up a line station here, you have to fulfill certain requirements,” explained Wazinski, who is also director of GTB.”The competent authority for the operator and the technical division is the German CAA .Gambia Bird has audits from the Gambian authorities too, but they don’t audit GTB because it is EASA-approved.”

Regulatory oversight by EASA gives the airline a free hand is selecting European destinations; though to date it serves just two routes outside Africa. London Gatwick Airports is operated twice weekly-including one flight that picks up passengers in Freetown, Sierra-Leone-while, at the time of writing, Barcelona was operated once weekly. Both routes have recorded load factors in excess of 65%, motivating the launch of a second consideration of a third or even fourth London flight at some point in the future.

“We had great success on our European routes,”Balke said.”London Gatwick was picked up by the market quite easily and Barcelona was a good choice because Span air left a big gap when it pulled out of the market.” He acknowledged, however, that the forthcoming entry of Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling on the Barcelona-Banjul route presents competitive challenges.

Scandinavian Destination

Beyond Spain and England, the airline had held talks with airports in Holland, Italy and countries “close to Germany and covering French catchment areas”. But talks have advanced furthest with an unspecified Scandinavian destination, which is expected to become the airlines third European route in summer 2013.

Balke emphasized that Gambia Birds intercontinental links fulfill a vital function for the flag-carrier, saying:”We can feel the pride of west Africans flying into London Gatwick ,coming with an African airline ,on-time ,with a modern aircraft.”

But closer to home, it is the carrier’s regional footprint that will ultimately determine Banjul’s potential as a hub for West Africa.

Though handicapped by delayed traffic rights to Lagos, the airline has deployed a combination of point-to-point and fifth freedom flights to serve many of the sub-regions key urban centres.

In March, it added Bamako in Mali, Quagadougou in Burkina Faso, and Abidjan in the Ivory Coast to its network. These routes complemented pre-existing services to Conakry in Guinea, Monrovia in Liberia, Freetown in Sierra Leone, Accra in Ghana, and Dakar in Senegal.

Plans for a link to Douala in Cameroon are on hold until access to Lagos is secured, as the Nigerian city will be used as a fifth-freedom stopover on the route.

Commenting on the launch of Bamako flights, Balke downplayed the relevance of a possible guerrilla war between Islamist rebels and French forces north of the city.”We are not scared of the political situation in Mali,” he said.”We have been there and felt how safe it is [in the capita].”

An onward connection to Barcelona may also be considered, he said, as Aspaniar had previously served that route with some success.

Other possible destinations of interest in the sub-region include Cotonou in Benin, Lome in Togo, and Equatorial Guinea. But Balke said further expansion is not the top priority, insisting the airline must first “enter a process of consolidation, increase our seat load factors, and focus on marketing and distribution.

As scheduled frequencies grow, the airline will gradually reduce its charter operations.”For now, if there are possibilities to have additional revenue of course we will take them,” he said.”But scheduled flying comes first.”

Significant expansion, either in the sub-region or in Europe, would also require a larger fleet .Though this is not on the cards at present, Wazinski noted that Germania is due to take delivery of two larger A321s in November 2013 and November 2014 .Acknowledging that the economics of flying A319s from west Africa to Europe are not optimal, he said the parent company would carefully consider whether to relocate one A321 to Banjul.

Additional A319s are unlikely to be required until Gambia Bird gains access to Nigeria.”We planned four frequencies a week to Lagos early on, and since then we are just waiting, waiting, waiting.” complained Balke.With bilateral traffic rights enshrined in the Banjul Accord- to which both countries are signatories-he said the matter is being pursued “government to government”. But he added his frustration that Nigeria’s Arik Air enjoys a monopoly on the Lagos-Banjul route.”They are flying here, but we cannot fly over there,” Balke noted.”This unfair competition will have a major impact.”

Seasonal Withdrawals

For Gambia, having an autonomous flag-carrier, which maintains year-round links to its partners, is vital. This applies to European leisure traffic as much as free trade in the sub-region. With tourism accounting for nearly 20% of the country’s GDP, Sallah said seasonal withdrawals by European airlines are damaging to the Gambian economy.

“For a long time we did not have a national airline operating out of Banjul International Airport,” he recalled.”Traditionally, during the winter months we have been flooded with Thomas Cook, Monarch, Condor and all the European charter flights.

“But then in the summer we are stuck with nothing. Gambia Bird gives Gambia the opportunity to continue linking very important European destinations all year round.”

Balke agreed, saying that the government does not want to be “dependent” on foreign leisure carriers. Developing this point, he said a strong flag-carrier with a deep regional footprint and regular links to European centres of commerce would advance Banjul’s hub aspirations. This, in turn, stood to benefit neighbouring countries as much as Gambia.

The stopover is Freetown on Gambia Birds second London-bound service underscores the potential benefit that it can bring to regional partners.

“We have really given Freetown the opportunity to go back home,” Sallah said.”I’m very proud, as a Gambian, to see the Gambian carrier facilitating not only travel for Gambians, but also for other people in the sub-region. This has been our vision from day one. We will not only be gateway to the Gambia. We will also be the gateway to west Africa.”

Cooperating with neighbouring countries-both to secure traffic rights and to explore potential partnerships -is therefore critical.

The airline is already in talks with one another west Africa carrier, Balke confirmed, adding:”We have to convince all the other states within the sub-region that we are actually helping them have permanent growth in the tourism market.”

Renewed airport investment is another pre-requisite, and Sallah said the Gambian CAA has already drawn up plans to improve facilities.

However, Gambia Birds status as a flag-carrier and symbol for national pride necessitates divergence from the low-cost carrier (LCC) model being trialed elsewhere on the continent, notably by Fast jet and its affiliate Fly 540.

Balke voiced skepticism about the viability of the LCC model in Africa where, he said, high airport taxes and challenging infrastructure curtail fare discounting.

In Sierra Leone, for example, authorities have proposed increasing the airport developments fee from $ 24 to $ 69.”How can you be low-cost in that environment? “Fast jet and Fly 540 say they are low-cost carriers but when I look at the fares actually we are sometimes $ 80 cheaper than them.”

Instead of minimizing base fares and introducing ancillary charges, Gambia Bird aims to balance price with product.”Of course we try to cut down our costs but for some services we cannot,” Balke said. He singled out Gambia Birds complimentary in-flight meals, insisting: There is a market for this and people pay for it.”

The airline is also reconfiguring its dual-cabin fleet when the aircraft undergo their first c-checks in April. It will withdraw one row from each of the A319s, extending the seat pitch in economy to 31 inches.

Though that work will be completed in Berlin, most of the day-to-day MRO has stationed in Banjul. It has a spare part pool agreement with AJ Walter Aviation, amassing components as diverse as hydraulic pumps, windscreens and weather radar transceivers.

Anthony A Juma is the Editor & Director Commercial and Flights Operations at Wings Over Africa Aviation Limited. This is an Air Charter Company that specializes on Private Charter & Scheduled Flights West Africa. The website has guided thousands of travelers to achieve their dream holiday. For more information and guidance, visit the site at http http://www.wingsoverafrica-aviation.com/index.php/sheduled-flights.html

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By dotun55 on 2015-01-18 07:20:06
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