Equatorial Congo Airlines, which operates under the brand ECAir, is set to add to its medium- and long-haul network from 2015 as it prepares for the arrival of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the final quarter of next year. It is understood that the carrier will operate at least one of the two Boeing 787s, currently allocated to Swiss aviation specialist PrivatAir.
The start-up is marketing itself as the national carrier of the Republic of Congo and has been fully backed by the Congolese Government as a vehicle for the modernisation of the aviation sector in the region. It was established with the support of Lufthansa Consulting and launched operations in September 2011.
The carrier is based at Brazzaville and is currently using two Boeing 737-300s configured with 12 business class and 108 economy class seats on domestic flights to Ollombo and Point Noire and international services to Cotonou in Benin and Douala in Cameroon. A 737-700 also joined the EC air fleet in May this year. These are all complemented by two 757-200s, configured with 16 business class and 132 economy class seats which arrived in August 2012 and December 2013. These larger aircraft have been used to introduce flights between Point Noire and Paris from August 2012 and Brazzaville and Dubai from March 2014.
“In two to three years we will have five long-haul aircraft,” Kevin Gotene, head of network planning and scheduling, EC Air, told The HUB Daily on the sidelines of the Routes Africa forum in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe earlier today, including at least one 787 due for delivery before the end of next year with additional aircraft following in 2016 and 2017. Ahead of the arrival of the Dreamliner, EC Air will add a former LAN Chile 767-300ER to its fleet from September this year to boost capacity on its existing medium- and long-haul routes where the 757 is proving too small and not ideal for the markets the aircraft serves.
“With the 767 we will have more seats to offer to the market,” said Gotene, allowing it to better compete on the two routes and offer more comfort to passengers. In the future the carrier has ambitions to grow to the East and West. “In the long-haul market we are planning to go to the USA and China, especially Guangzhou,” said Gotene.
As a relatively small country with an estimated population of 4.6 million, EC Air is aware it will need to work to fill its long-haul routes and is seeking to develop a hub concept at Brazzaville’s Maya–Maya Airport to support local demand. “We are a small country with a limited population so we would like first to have more regional destinations to bring into our country a maximum number of passengers to go to these long-haul destinations,” concluded Gotene.
You can watch our video interview with Kevin Gotene, head of network planning and scheduling, EC Air, below:
EC Air looks to China and USA for long-haul growth