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Skies open up for regional aviation industry

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 26 – The regional aviation industry has managed to register growth despite the unfavourable economic climate, seeing a six percent increase for Eastern and Central Africa.

Cornwell Muleya the Chief Executive Officer of Regional airline ALS remained optimistic about the trend, saying it could only get better with rising investor interest shifting to Africa.

“Most businesses now, in terms of investment, are turning to Africa. They’re discovering more resources, which means investment will come, and with that investment comes economic growth, which will drive aviation,” he said.

Muleya was speaking as ALS received the International Airport Transport Association (IATA) membership certificate, on Monday.

Officially joining on September 12 this year, ALS follows Kenya Airways and Precision Air in East Africa to join the global umbrella airlines body.

IATA has 231 airlines under its membership, carrying 93 percent of the world’s international scheduled traffic.

With a fleet size of 22 aircraft, ALS announced its intention to acquire 50-seat Embraer 145 jet and Dash 8-3000, to cater to its anticipated business with scheduled airlines and contract markets.

Already, the airline has entered a one year lease agreement with South Sudanese airline Southern Star for a Sh400 million 37-seater Dehavilland Dash 8 aircraft, with prospect partnerships in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Primarily known, within the region, as an aircraft for NGOs like the UN and World Food Program (WFP), ALS Chairman Aslam Khan said about 80 to 90 percent of the airline’s business comes from such agencies.

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“For further diversification of our business we decided to go for the IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certification so that we could target the airlines.”

IATA Regional Vice President for Africa Mike Higgins noted that apart from the crippling jet fuel costs, African airlines stand to experience a hit to business, with the proliferation of airport charges within the continent.

“We’ve seen on the continent, permissions given for 161 percent increases. Probably our biggest threat is the European Trading Scheme, which will arbitrarily charge every carrier flying within the European Union,” he cautioned.

Higgins added that on average African air carriers report a global margin of 1.5 percent, which he said is offset by the recent unrest in the Middle East and North African region.

India is expected to host a two-day conference this month, to launch a global campaign against the European Trading Scheme that will impose a carbon emissions levy on airlines effective January 1, 2012.

The US, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Philippines and Paraguay are among the countries expected to attend.

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