New African start-up Air Cote d’Ivoire has announced its initial network plans after the Abidjan-based carrier took delivery of its first aircraft earlier this month. The new carrier, a joint venture between the Government of the Ivory Coast, Air France and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development says it plans to initially start operations from the end of October, at the start of the Northern Winter schedules.
The airline was originally planning to launch operations on regional routes in July 2012 before adding domestic links later in the year. However, a delay in the pre-launch phase has meant that its first aircraft, an Airbus A319 leased from shareholder Air France, only arrived in Abidjan earlier this month. This will be used for a period of crew training ahead of the inauguration of scheduled services next month.
In a presentation to the local market, Air Cote d’Ivoire has confirmed it will look to serve an initial seven international destinations comprising Accra, Ghana; Bamako, Mali; Conakry, Guinea; Cotonou, Benin; Dakar, Senegal; Lagos, Nigeria and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. This will be supplemented by a domestic network covering Bouna, Bouaké, Bondoukou, Korhogo, Man, Odienné, San Pedro and Yamassoukoro.
All but one of the international destinations planned by Air Cote d’Ivoire are already served by other carriers. Accra is linked to the Ivory Coast capital by ASKY Airlines, Ceiba Intercontinental and Fly540Ghana, while Emirates Airline and South African Airways fly the route as continuation services on flights to/from Dubai and Johannesburg, respectively. Bamako is served by Air Mali, Fly 6ix, Mauritanian Airlines and Senegal Airlines; Conakry by ASKY Airlines and Fly 6ix; Cotonou by Ethiopian Airlines, Mauritanian Airlines, Senegal Airlines and Westair Benin; Dakar by Kenya Airways Senegal Airlines, while Ouagadougou is linked by sister venture Air Burkina.
The exception is Lagos, which has no current direct air services from Abidjan. The Abidjan – Lagos route was last served directly by Senegal Airlines for two months earlier this year, but before that it was a route last served on a schedule basis by Ivory Coast predecessor Air Ivoire.
The regional network will be key to Air Cote d'Ivoire's success as the domestic market in the Ivory Coast is limited. According to data from OAG there have been no scheduled air services within the country for more than two years and even then there were only a small number of flights on just one or two routes. Air Cote d'Ivoire, it appears, will work to stimulate the local market and provide onward connectivity at Abidjan’s Port Bouet Airport.
In a recent interview with the local Ivorian press, Air Cote d'Ivoire's boss, René Décurey outlined the start-up’s network strategy. "We analysed the region. On the network, we decided that we, Air Côte d'Ivoire, could not do it alone, we need partners, and with feeder flights from different countries, we can create a platform in Abidjan. This allows us to make direct flights from Abidjan to Central Africa without going via Cotonou or Lomé. Air Côte d'Ivoire's passengers will have more direct flights,” he said.
Air Cote d’Ivoire was officially established in May this year after Air France, a strategic partner with the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and the economic development agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) signed a partnership framework agreement and a shareholders agreement for the creation of the airline. The company is 65 per cent owned by the State of the Ivory Coast and 35 per cent by the Strategic Partner made up of Air France Finance (20%) and Aérienne de Participation-Côte d’Ivoire (15%), the airline holding company covered by Ivorian law and representing the AKFED. It was initially formed with a capital investment of CFAF 2.5 billion, rising to CFAF 25 billion in the short-term.
Speaking at the time of the incorporation of the airline, General Abdoulaye Coulibaly, Chairman of the Steering Committee said: “The President of the Republic His Excellency Dr. Alassane Ouattara has informed me a few months ago that the Ivorian people are eagerly awaiting the setting up of this airline. I am delighted and I think that thanks to Air Côte d’Ivoire, our country will regain its place as an airline in West Africa. I remain convinced that we have just created a viable and sustainable airline, and that especially at the outset, we will benefit from cooperation with Air Burkina and Air Mali from the AKFED Group, our partner.”