NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – British Airways has projected a 10 percent growth for its business operations in Africa.
This comes as the airline awaits improved returns in 2010 following dismal performance by the aviation industry from 2008 through to 2009.
Speaking to journalists in Nairobi via a video conference, British Airways Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said the projections were based on faster recovery in the region as well as Asia, and Latin America.
“We are seeing very positive indicators – albeit disjointed – but hopefully the industry will be back to stable growth in 2011,” Mr Walsh said.
The African route is said to contribute less than 10 percent of BA’s total business.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has already indicated that global airlines are expected to record improved results in 2010 following strong passenger demand in the first quarter of this year.
IATA projects that passenger demand would grow by 5.6 percent this year compared to the forecast of 4.5 percent given in December 2009. In 2009, passenger demand fell by 2.9 percent.
Mr Walsh however said the cargo business was likely to forge the airline’s profits in future.
“Unlike the passenger side of the business, cargo was not adversely hit in 2009 and hopefully we can use that to grow in Africa,” he said.
IATA data shows cargo is expected to grow by 12 percent compared to the drop of 11.1 percent seen last year.
Globally, the cargo business has picked up by 28 percent, a situation that gives the airline the opportunity to capitalise and improve its business.
Air cargo industry in Africa has been projected to record double-digit growth in the next two to four years. Mr Walsh expressed confidence in the Kenyan route saying it was an important link in its African operations.
“This was demonstrated by the fact we have maintained our operations here despite difficult operating conditions,” he said.
BA has however come under renewed competition in the local market by the resurgence of Middle East airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar as well as other European airlines.
The BA Chief underlined improving economic conditions on the continent as well as future business opportunities as key factors for their enthusiasm in the market.
“We all know it’s a very competitive market and we have no doubt it will continue,” he said adding Kenya would be the ultimate beneficiary with increased flights into the country.
He said the main strategy for Africa would be offering more point-to-point flights with key destinations in Europe and America.