Which East African nation could be a good hub for African-international travel?

Which East African nation could be a good hub for African-international travel?

Rwandair inaugural flight to Tel Aviv at Kigali International Airport in October 2019

​If a compass was laid over the African continent, what aviation hubs would you find at each point? To the north, there are countries of Egypt and Morroco, both with vast tourism markets thanks to quick access to the Middle East and Europe, respectively. To the south, there is the South African Airlines fortress of Johannesburg. While this airline and its hub have fallen on more challenging times, the market’s diverse composition fosters a competitive landscape that keeps it on the map.

But what of the east of this compass? What would the aviation hubs be, on the sunrise of the continent?

For one, it is not easy for a country to rise and become ‘the’ aviation hub of the region. A variety of things have to go right, and many of them are unfortunately rare in the developing world:

  • The government needs to be open to business and be willing to invest in aviation. As aviation has a lot of regulation, a friendly government that recognises how important it is is the first prerequisite.
  • Economic stability and development are vital to the growth of both domestic and international aviation activities for the country.
  • It should be easy for foreign investors to do business in the nation.
  • This also means that foreign firms need to be comfortable investing in the country, and the success stories that we see so far in Africa aviation, have had plenty of external support.
  • The nation needs airport infrastructure that meets international standards.
  • Likewise, the country needs a healthy domestic market to support home carriers beyond just international flights. These markets are walled gardens, sealed off to foreign airlines, and give a revenue stream to local startups. Thus smaller nations that don’t have the airports or the demand for local airlines, may struggle to establish a sound domestic market.
  • Lastly, a competitive airline market. While many nations in Africa have successful government-owned flag carriers, it is better to have a more splintered private market that encourages startup airlines, foreign investment, and innovation.

This article would be amiss if we didn’t mention the existing hub of the east, Ethiopia. Dominated by the largest carrier in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines, Addis Ababa forms a cosmopolitan junction for flights to the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. The question remains if there is room for another hub country so close to this giant.

Possible Candidates In The East Africa region

– Rwanda

Rwanda has positioned itself to become the Singapore of Africa, with an attractive, clean country with little crime, open for business, and most importantly, aggressively pioneering aviation. The country has the highest rank in Africa in the World Economic Forum’s global competitive index, at 58th out of 137.

As part of its 2020 vision plan, the government has invested heavily in its national carrier and airport infrastructure. Similar to Singapore’s strategic position as a hub in South East Asia, Rwanda’s location echoes this key advantage. Thanks to the countries’ central location inland, it is closer to the geographical center of Africa than any other country, meaning flights can easily reach destinations without much trouble.

RwandAir, the national state-owned carrier, has been described as the fastest-growing airline in Africa. It was the first carrier to operate the incredibly popular Boeing 737-800 in Africa and has been heavily invested in by Qatar (51% of the airline is owned by the government, with 49% owned by Qatar). This level of funding and expertise from the Middle-Eastern airline will jumpstart its progress into becoming a powerhouse of the region. As of now (September 2020), the airline’s fleet consists of twelve aircraft – two Airbus A330s, six Boeing 737s, and four regional jet aircraft. There are three more aircraft on the way; an Airbus A330-900neo and two Boeing 737 MAXs.

As for other carriers – there are none. RwandAir and RwandAir Express (the previous certificate) are the only active airlines currently registers in the CH-Aviation database.

When it comes to airports, the country has put together a strategic plan to pour investment into four airports. The current Kigali International Airport is set to be renovated and expanded, and a second international airport is currently undergoing planning approval. Additionally, the government intends to build two more regional airports, to support the domestic industry. The overall investment in aviation infrastructure is estimated at $789 million for 2019-2030.

– Kenya

With a market set to double in size by 2038 with “an additional 11.3 million passenger journeys, over 449,000 more jobs and an US$11.3 billion (Sh1.1 trillion) boost to GDP by the end of the 2030s”. The massive nation of Kenya could very well be the next rival to Ethiopia and upset the careful balance curated by Rwanda. With a much bigger landmass, population, and a reputation as a popular tourism destination, the country has everything going right for it. Although when it comes to having a stable and open for business government, it falls short to rival Rwanda at 97th in competitiveness rank – with high corrupting, difficult to access financing, and high taxes.

The nation has also met many of the criteria listed earlier in this article, with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) investing in its local airports to encourage foreign carriers to fly to the country.

“Over the last two years, we have been implementing an ambitious strategy to deal with one of the key challenges also facing the aviation sector in the continent, namely, expansion and improvement of capacity at our main airports,” said Alex Gitari, Ag. Managing Director & Chief Executive of KAA to All Africa. 

Alas, recently, the country has not been so successful with its airline, Kenya Airways, with the national carrier running into financial problems. While it has fared well during the Ccoronavirus pandemic, by transporting well over 10,000 tons of cargo, it has been forced to put its ambitious expansion plans on hold until it is back in the good graces of Kenya’s banks. The government has made moves to nationalize the airline and is currently negotiating with shareholders over the purchase price of shares. This move by the Kenyan government may have knock-on effects for the local aviation market, as home carriers are now effectively competing with the government.

The country is home to 14 registered IATA airlines, and numerous cargo and charter operators. The domestic market is large, and many of these smaller air operators serve the powerful tourist safari market. Competition is fierce, but this only encourages investment and expansion of aviation-related services.

– Tanzania

To the south of Kenya is the vibrant nation of Tanzania. Not only is does it have a viable domestic market, but it is also an extremely popular tourist destination. Africa’s highest peak (Mt Kilimanjaro) lies within its borders, its vibrant coastline archipelago hosts some of the continent’s most well-known white sandy beaches. Although, it is not all peachy with the country having a lower competitive rank compared to Kenya, with a score of 113th in 2018. The main factors holding back the country are lack of access to financing and a lack of infrastructure outside of airports. 

When it comes to airports, Tanzania has more than enough to service the international and domestic markets. Excluding the airports on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania has 27 airports, 15 of which are international. This beautiful country is set to welcome visitors to every inch of the nation. Plus, the availability of air travel makes traveling across the country easy and relatively affordable. Privately owned Mt Kilimanjaro International Airport, the gateway to the named mountain, is undergoing extensive upgrades to prepare for increased visitor numbers.

“The scope of work at the airport comprised renovation of the terminal building, construction of a new parallel taxiway and extension of the existing apron and taxiways,” said Acting Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (KADCO) Managing Director, Engineer Christopher Mukoma.

According to CH-Aviation’s airline portal, there are 28 airlines operating in Tanzania today, with more on the way as the country exploits its airport availability. Many of these are using the latest airframes, like government-owned Air Tanzania that operates the new Airbus A220 aircraft (the first in Africa).

What about other countries?

These three nations offer some of the most compelling nations for a new East Africa aviation hub but are certainly not the only ones. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps a combination of two or all will form the backbone of a powerful aviation region.

If you are a startup or airline service looking for a partner in the developing world, then look no further than Eways Aviation. With the right know-how and connections to make it happen, we are in a position to help you big or small. Contact us today.

The Race To Be Ghana’s Number One Airline

The Race To Be Ghana’s Number One Airline

In our last article about Ghana, we showcased how government investment and liberalization of the aviation center, was putting the country on the world map and may even lead to it being the next big hub of Africa. However, what the article didn’t cover was the rapid arrival of new and invested historic carriers claiming the top spot in the West African airspace. Which airlines are notable in the region, and what future developments can we look forward to?

Who is currently flying in Ghana?

We will begin this report with a look at the current operating carriers inside Ghana airspace. According to CH-Aviation’s database, three major airlines are operating scheduled services:

  • African World Airlines (ICAO: AFW)
  • Passion Air (ICAO: DIG)
  • Unity Air (Domestic only)

In terms of international carriers, Ghana is catered to by a range of 28 international airlines from West Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Nearly every destination is catered to, apart from flights to South America and, surprisingly, Asia. Thus there is a market for some new airlines (see below) to fill in this market gap. There is also a lack of airlines flying regular services to the growing Central Africa region. 

The country is well connected to the Middle East, with Emirates and Qatar both offering flights to the region, and fifth-freedom onward flights to other areas in West Africa. Back in 2018, Abkar Al-Baker, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Airline, confirmed the airline’s plans to GNA in Doha that:We have already gone far with talks with the aviation authorities in Ghana and will be flying to that country by the middle of 2019″.

African World Airlines is the defacto carrier of Ghana since the state carrier, Ghana Airways, went defunct in 2014. Comprising of a fleet eight Embraer ERJ-145, the airline operates domestic routes around the country. It did operate several international services to neighboring West African nations such as Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, alas these routes have been suspended due to the current crisis engulfing the country. It is unknown when they will reopen for scheduled operations, but the airline has been used for charter flights to bring nationals home.

The carrier has looked at expanding with additional aircraft, such as widebody Boeing 767s for long-haul international routes or standard 100-seater airliners like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320s. However, the former was found to be too large for the current market demand and the latter has suffered several setbacks such as a market collapse after the Ebola outbreak in 2015, and the Boeing 737 MAX crisis that rapidly increased the price of used models on the market.

“While we would love to have much newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft, the simple problem you have for West African airlines is the ownership costs for new airframes are too high for them to be operated profitably. You have to be able to squeeze 14/15 hours per day out of these aircraft to be able to compete at the price points you need to. But when you are handicapped by airport infrastructure that does not support night operations, you cannot get the utility out of that aircraft to justify its cost,” said AWA’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), Sean Mendis, to Ch-Aviation. 

Since the current Covid-19 pandemic, the airline has decided to follow a partnership approach and work with other airlines in the region to develop a bigger (code-shared) route network.

Regarding the other carriers, Passion Air has a small fleet of four turboprop aircraft (Bombardier Dash 8 Q400), useful to fly its only three routes, from Accra to Tamale and Kasumi. However, these aircraft can be used on charter routes to the many undescribed runways throughout the vast country. The other carrier, Unity Air, only operates to Kasumi with a single Embraer E120 Brasilia. It has looked at acquiring three ATR 72 turboprops; however these plans are on ice during for now.

Airline silicon valley

The state is also experiencing a surprising boom of new start-up operators entering the market. According to the Director of the Ghanaian Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Simon Allotey, there were likely to be four additional airlines operating in the country by the end of 2019.

“We are likely to get about four more operators coming on stream by the end of the current year, and the implication is we will have a very fierce competitive environment,” he said to Ch-Aviation.You take the domestic scene, for example, all the three operators are just doing AccraKumasi, Accra-Tamale and there are routes like Tamale-Wa, Tamale-Kumasi which are untapped, nobody operates there, so it could be possible to create synergy by one airline deciding to operate from Wa to Tamale to provide that missing link in service.”

Back in 2019, it was reported that carriers had applied for airline certificates:

  • Ashanti Airlines (Domestic, Regional, Intercontinental);
  • Baby Jet Airlines (Domestic, Regional Africa, International);
  • Katlan Air Ltd t/a GoldJet Airways (International);
  • Love Airways (Domestic, Regional Africa);
  • Sizwe International Airline (Domestic, Sub-regional Africa);
  • Trinity Airlines (Domestic, Regional).

So far, none have acquired the required documents and begun operations, but some have ambitious ideas and want to carry the flame of Ghana aviation.

The next flag carrier airline

As mentioned when discussing African World Airlines, the country used to have a home carrier called Ghana Airways. This carrier not only serviced the domestic routes of the country but additionally flew long-haul international flights with Airbus A330s. The history of its demise is turbulent and fraught with corruption (and best saved for a case study analysis); however, it has left a gap in the local long-haul market.

The local government of Ghana has attempted to partner with African powerhouse airlines Ethiopian Airlines to launch a new state carrier, based in Kotoka. So far, plans involve operating turboprops to domestic destinations, but Boeing widebodies are in the pipeline to bring the world to Kotoka. Ethiopian Airlines beat out Turkish Airlines and local Air Mauritius but stalled after the current Coronavirus pandemic hampered international trade. Since then, the government has is looking to form a suitable partnership with local firms – including domestic carriers.

“This will be a privately-run entity. The majority of the shares of the airline will be Ghanaian-owned. We have encouraged them [investors] to explore a partnership with existing domestic airlines.” Aviation Minister Joseph Kofi Adda to Business24

It remains to be seen how Ghana’s airline market place will change in the coming months, but from what we have seen so far, it is one of the most dynamic in the region!

If you are an airline or aviation firm looking to invest or break into Ghana, then speak to Eways Aviation today. As the international experts of all things aviation in Africa and beyond, let us be your guiding light to illuminate new opportunities.

Ghana: Understanding The Airport Landscape

Ghana: Understanding The Airport Landscape

Kumasi Airport entrance in Ghana

Ghana, or the Republic of Ghana, is set to become West Africa’s next big aviation hub by bringing its technological, societal, and strategic location to the fore. Why is Ghana’s aviation industry so dynamic, serving over two million international passengers per year, and what can we expect from its airport landscape? Let’s explore.

The country and the region as a whole is rapidly expanding with a 40% increase in passenger numbers. From 415,000 domestic travelers in 2018 to 690,000 in 2019 alone. This is thanks to an increase in government investment in airport infrastructure (such as opening the new WA airport), an increase in flight frequency by airlines, and a push for global tourism by the federal Ghana government.

Understanding the airport landscape

Ghana has two major international airports, and then several secondary domestic airports, for a total of five operating airports: Kotoka, Ho, Kumasi, Tamale, and Wa.

Kotoka International Airport – Serving the most significant urban area of Ghana, the city of Accra, this airport saw over 3,019,065 passengers in 2019. In operation for many years, the airport has undergone several facelifts to allow up to 8,000 passengers per day. With routes spanning the globe, this airport is the main entryway for passengers into the region. It has three modern terminals, with self-check-in systems, in-terminal shopping, and facilities that meet IATA standards. Plus, the runway is long enough to sustain even the most heavily loaded Airbus A380, and is the center of the countries air freight operations.  If anywhere is an indication of the government’s investment, it is this airport, with a very high 83.3% of all Ghana flights originating here.

Kumasi International Airport – The second international airport of Ghana, and serving the city of Kumasi. In 2018, the airport authorized a $200 million US renovation, including a runway extension to accommodate modern widebody aircraft and a new terminal. The new facility will be able to facilitate up to one million passengers a year, a significant leap from its 2012 numbers of 42,000 a month.

Ho Airport – Domestic airport for the city of Ho. Construction began in 2015 with a completion date of 2017. Today is used primarily as a pilot training base, with a passenger capacity of only 150,000 passengers a year. Local carrier Africa World Airlines has indicated that they wish to start regular operations to the area, for tourism and business investment.

Wa Airport – The newest airport in the Ghana family, it opened in 2019 and started operating domestic services to the capital airport in Accra. It has gathered the attention of the local airlines, Africa World Airlines, who is operating tourist routes to the area.

“The decision to launch this service is part of AWA’s commitment to providing safe and affordable air transportation to all Ghanaians. This new airport in the Upper West will help boost existing business travel to the region, as well as create new opportunities for tourists exploring Mole National Park and its surroundings,” Head of Commercial Richard Kyereh said to CH-Aviation.

What about other airports?

Takoradi Airport Building in Takoradi, Ghana

Navrongo Airport – Domestic airport serving the city of Paga. Located to the extreme north of the country, the runway is unpaved. So it is considered a regional airport and is only used for charter services at this stage.

Takoradi Airport – For the urban area of Sekondi-Takoradi, this airstrip is primarily a military airbase, but it does allow access to the area for light aircraft. Unlike Navrongo, the runway is paved. Alas, because this is a military base, passenger flights are somewhat restricted, and the region can’t grow without a bespoke commercial facility.

“We have a lot of tourists going to the Cape Coast area, there is a lot of development going on in the oil and gas enclave in the Western Region, and the Takoradi Port is there as well. The fishing harbour in Elmina is also there. All these show that people will be traveling to and from the Central and Western Regions, so we plan to move on that,” Aviation Minister, Joseph Kofi Adda, told AviationGhana

Sunyani Airport – The main airport for the Bono region and the city of Sunyani, little information is regularly published online for this western country airport. Due to several defects regarding the runway, the Ghana aviation ministry has asked the airport operator, Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), to rehabilitate the runway for regular airline services. The terminal building has been renovated with modern security facilities and expanded passenger comforts.

Tamale Airport – Located in mid-northern Ghana serving the named city, this airport is international in everything but name. With custom facilities, an impressive three and a half kilometer paved runway, and gates for airlines to spare, this airport is all set to welcome international arrivals. So far the airport has been used for pilgrimage but thus far only operates charter domestic and private flights. This airport is on the map as a growth hub for airlines.

Mr. Darko-Mensah, the Member of Parliament for the Takoradi constituency, spoke of plans to expand Tamale International Airport operations with a new terminal and other facilities, as part of Ghana’s plans to become an aviation hub.
“The Tamale Airport would one day become the only facility where Hajj pilgrims will travel from Ghana to Saudi Arabia for their annual religious activities,” he said to DagBon.net

Yendi Airport – The four-acre site was secured back in 2018 with plans to develop into a regional airstrip. According to the most recent satellite images, the area consists of a simple unpaved runway, that light aircraft can land on, but the site does not have any other facilities nor any serviced operations to speak of. The land was released by the local government after seeing the benefits of aviation in other areas. “Tremendous socio-economic development, something that demanded efficient transport services,” said Kampakuya-Na Andani Yakubu Abdulai, Regent of Dagbon, and acting President of the Dagbon Traditional Council, to press.

What future plans are on the horizon?

The first step is to deal with the current Covid-19 crisis. As of the 1st of September, 2020, Ghana has allowed international travelers to return to its country, with the GACL focusing on a special sanitization program to keep all facilities clean and safe for passengers. In addition, passengers who arrive at the border will need to undergo a COVID test on-site before they are released into the country. So far, over 200 passengers per day have been tested by this method (with any positive cases taken to isolation). With a return of business and eventual tourist trade, the government can get back on track with its grand aviation plans.

And grand they are, with a plan to increase the functional airports up from five to ten with a 24.7 million GHC ($4.2 million US) feasibility study. The study, due at the end of the year as part of the roadmap for future aviation growth, will recommend ten new airports and heliports, as well as seven other aviation projects.

One issue that is hampering further development in this region is the lack of night flights. Because many of the airports above don’t have lights or aerodrome radar facilities, air traffic can only operate during the day. According to Africa World Airlines Chief Operations officer Sean Mendias in 2019, this fact is a critical roadblock to preventing growth.

“We effectively have a 12-hour domestic operations window – between 06:00 and 18:00 – and the 10 minutes that I can save by using a jet will give me an extra rotation during the day. Also, reliance on turboprops would restrict us to being a domestic operator; we wouldn’t be able to use a Q400 to serve Abuja or Freetown, and that’s where the money is. The domestic [Ghanaian] market has the volume and is our overall revenue driver, but regional African flights, with their higher yields, are our profit driver,” 

As experts in the local Ghana market, Eways Aviation is your partner in exploring business opportunities and facilitating operations in this fascinating country.

 

 

Africa’s Aviation MRO Problem and How to Solve It

Africa’s Aviation MRO Problem and How to Solve It

​Africa is a growing aviation region, and according to researchers here at Eways Aviation, set to recover and grow the fastest after the current crisis. However, one reader correctly pointed out an issue at the heart of the continents’ rapid expansion – its MRO problem.

What is the problem with MRO in Africa?

For the uninitiated, MRO stands for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul of aircraft. These services are provided by independent firms that are located at various airstrips that supply spare parts, repair grounded aircraft, and perform scheduled maintenance. When an aircraft is grounded (Aircraft on Ground, or AOG) then the airline has to use local support to find spare parts and/or repair the aircraft. But when airlines require regular maintenance services, the task of finding a long-term service partner, can be frustrating.

Because the aircraft operated by many airlines in the region are so new, they can only be maintained by authorized firms such as Airbus (whose regional office is located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), or in the specific case highlighted in this article, the engines need to be serviced by General Electric. The problem with needing a maintenance crew in Africa is that the nearest crew for General Electric are stationed in England.

A pitfall for operators in the region concerns the limited presence of certified maintenance facilities. Operators have to ferry aircraft 5 hours away to Addis Abeba or Rabat and, more often, Europe for basic maintenance interventions. There is no sufficiently equipped or technologically advanced MRO in the region. This accounts for more significant operational costs and higher fares. Investments in a worthy MRO located around one of the strategic airports could quickly yield outstanding benefits. – Abong Bebey Blais, a reader commenting on Eways Aviation’s latest Central Africa report. 

This means airlines operating aircraft with these engines (which is very common) have to either prepare for long-distance maintenance operations, or pay exhorbitant fees to transport maintenance crews to their hubs in Africa. And if the airline is based out of a remote location (like Central Africa), this can make things very expensive.

It’s that last point that we want to stress. These foreign MRO firms are costly because they only take hard cash upfront from airlines, despite many of them being operated by national governments.

“At present, said carriers are forced to rely on foreign lessors and MRO firms, requiring payment in hard currency.” – The Ministry of Civil Aviation of Nigeria via CH-Aviation

What if airlines can’t pay the higher fees?

It can get so bad that if an airline is unable to service its MRO debts, then it may have its aircraft held hostage by the MRO operator (or through inaction on maintenance for the plane, the airline may be grounded).

“The risk associated with this arrangement is one where if the aircraft [i.e., the sole remaining A319] should, on any day, develop a technical problem, the entire regional operation will be shut down (all flights to JNB and CPT). The further risk relates to fact that SAAT is the maintenance service provider on this fleet. They might not be in a position to attend to the aircraft – as is the case with our other A319 aircraft,”Air Namibia’s interim chief executive Xavier Masule wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Works and Transport in 2019.

At the time of writing this article, Air Namibia had two A319s held by SAA Technical (SAAT) in Johannesburg and needed government assistance to the tune of NAD20 million Namibian dollars (USD1.33 million) to recover the aircraft. Without aircraft, an airline can’t carry passengers and can’t make revenue.

In some cases, the national government has had to step in to ensure that MRO debts are paid to allow continued aircraft operations. In Libya, the Central Bank has had to disburse US dollars to settle arrears of Air Libya accounts with its foreign-based suppliers, including MRO and ground handling firms in Turkey.

“This will allow the airline to work normally without any restrains and debts,” said spokesman Omran Al-Zabadi told Akhbar Libya to press.

Availability of MRO services can dictate the future of an airline

Lastly, even when MRO is available to airlines in their local region, it might be capped by a single provider – which limits expansion opportunities for the future.

“I like the A321-200neo(LR) very much, we could do a lot of things with this aircraft but not in our current financial state. It is easier to talk with Boeing because we are already a customer, we have a training facility, an [local] MRO” – Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz told CH-Aviation. Without additional spending, Kenya Airways would be forced only to consider Boeing options.

Until this MRO bottleneck is resolved, airlines will continue to be at the mercy of international MRO operators in more affluent countries, with more powerful currencies and the ability to ransom airlines at whim.

What is the solution to this MRO problem?

Fortunately, there is a way around this problem, and it requires both MRO firms, airlines, and national governments to come together. It involves investing in MRO operations in the region and ensuring that these services are provided in the local currency at a fair market rate.

Some countries have already taken the plunge, and the race is now on to build much-needed MRO facilities in Africa’s heartland.

In 2018, the Ghanaian government signed an agreement with Egypt to allow the national carrier, EgyptAir Maintenance and Engineering, to establish a vast MRO facility at Accra Kotoka International Airport.

“Abu Talib Tawfiq, the CEO of EgyptAir, pointed to the importance of the new contract that comes within the framework of expanding in the African continent and targeting new customers for EgyptAir for maintenance as part of the company’s strategy, as the company succeeded in attracting 15 new customers from airlines” (Translated) press release. 

“The consultants said [it would take] two years, and I said we should do it in a year if possible, so between one and two years, I think that should be the period,” said former Ghana’s Minister for Aviation, Cecilia Dapaah, in 2018. Since then, the facility has been expanded to help operate new airlines in the region and allow MRO services 24 hours a day.

What about other countries?

In other countries like Tanzania, a change in government aviation regulations has allowed new MRO services to pop up.

“Other projects on the cards include an MRO hangar facility in Dar es Salaam, an inflight catering unit, and the construction of an executive lounge in Julius Nyerere International Airport’s new Terminal III.” – Edward Nkwabi, Sales and Distribution Manager at Air Tanzania.

Lastly, neighboring country Kenya has not been slack in developing its own MRO services, with the home carrier Kenya Airways planning to invest heavily in MRO, among other things. “We have to invest in fleets, in MRO, in IT, in our training center. In any business, and especially in ours, you need to spend in the beginning in order to reap the rewards in the long run,” said Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz to CH-Aviation.

With new modern and more significant MRO facilities well on the way, airlines can breathe a sigh of relief that things are going to get better in the region. However, there is still a long way to go until these operations can match the coverage and technical skill of the Middle-East and Europe.

If you are an airline in need of MRO operations, spare parts or more, speak to Eways Aviation. As the de facto experts in African Aviation, we stand by ready to help you navigate the tricky waters of this fascinating and turbulent region.

The Duopoly Landscape Of Brazil’s Airports

The Duopoly Landscape Of Brazil’s Airports

American Airlines Boeing 767 at Guarulhos airport of Sao Paulo. The airport served 43 million passengers in 2019.

Brazil is a big country. We’ve already talked here about “The Future of Brazil’s Aviation in a Post-Covid World”  but we should note also that there are a lot of airports of note under the nation’s flag. And finding the right one for your airline or aviation firms next move can be daunting.

After all, according to IATA, there are in total 534 public and 2,183 private aerodromes in Brazil alone. So where do we begin? Let’s run down the most popular airports in Brazil, and the background on their development.

Where are the countries most popular airports?

According to published passenger data for January 2020, the majority of passenger traveling in Brazil, passed through two cities.

  • São Paulo dominates the aviation landscape in Brazil with the majority of flights passing through its twin airports. They are Guarulhos International Airport and Congonhas Airport.
  • Rio de Janeiro has two airports, although they are not as popular as the ones in São Paulo. They are Galeão International Airport and Santos Dumont Airport.
  • Brasília’s Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport is also found in the top five airports in the region, thanks to its political ties as the nation’s capital.
  • Tancredo Neves-Confins International Airport located in Belo Horizonte is the only airport serving the countries third biggest city. It is for this reason that it is a popular airport, although has less overall city numbers than the others above.

It’s worth pointing out that the government in Brazil has been on a path of airport privatization to recoup the significant investment they have supported in the local aviation industry. So far the biggest airports have been sold to external investors (some international), and since then the government has slowly been divesting from airports region by region. There are auctions in place at the end of 2020 for up to 22 airports, but this may be delayed due to the current aviation crisis.  As airports are primarily private in this region, it means that market forces will act far more strongly on their operations and conversely, firms looking to work with these companies will have an easier time securing deals.

Guarulhos International Airport

São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport is by far the busiest airport in Brazil with well over four million passengers per month. It is so busy that it has twice as much traffic as the next airport on the list, Congonhas Airport, which is also located in São Paulo. It is only second in all of Latin America behind Mexico City International Airport.

Built way back on August 11, 1980, the airport was an expansion to two existing military air bases (which still have a presence at the airport today). The airport has two runways, extended and widened in 2015 to support Airbus A380 operations (although currently doesn’t have a scheduled service due to the current crisis). There are three airport terminal buildings, with the first two operating domestic flights and the latter operating long-haul international flights.

Since the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the airport has seen less public government investment (there were plans for a train line but this never eventuated), although some private international airlines have invested in the air facility. In particular, American Airlines has invested $100 million into the airport for a new 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq ft) maintenance hangar that can maintain two widebody aircraft side by side, ensuring its aircraft on the route have sufficient support. LATAM Brasil followed suit with its own hanger that cost around R$130 million the same year.

Congonhas Airport

As the second fiddle to the bigger (and grander) Guarulhos International Airport, Congonhas serves as the city’s main domestic airport (of three others). It is the second busiest airport in Brazil with 1,912,835 passengers in Jnauary 2020, facilitating four different airlines (Azul Brazilian Airlines, Gol Transportes Aéreos, LATAM Brasil, Voepass Linhas Aéreas). It is owned by the city of São Paulo but its operation is privatized. There is only two runways at the airport which limit its operations to 30 per hour, and they are too short for larger aircraft like the Airbus A380. Plus, because the airport is utterly surrounded by the city of São Paulo, there is no hope of any vast new expansions.

Interestingly, at one point the airport and its airlines operated a once-every-half-an-hour service to Rio’s Santos Dumont airport called the ‘air-bridge’. Essentially, ticket prices, costs, check-in, and more were all regulated and airlines were guaranteed a fair cut at the end of the year. This ended in 1999 when it no longer became economical to work together.

The government of São Paulo has been pushing for the airport to resume international operations, and provide a competitive rival to the Guarulhos. Whether or not this will go ahead in this changing climate remains to be seen, although if it did likely local South American carriers would choose this airport thanks to its proximity location to São Paulo’s downtown.

“I spoke with Tarcísio (Gomes) with Paulo Guedes on Friday, we will internationalize Congonhas”. The governor of São Paulo, João Doria, after a meeting with Brazil’s federal government ministers of Economy and Infrastructure.

Galeão International Airport

Physically the largest airport in Brazil (but not the busiest with only 1,261,700 passengers in January 2020), it is the gateway to the tourism capital of the country. It was the flagship destination of the 2014 FIFA world cup and the 2016 Olympic games, with the airport receiving upgrades of around  R$819 million (US$431 million; €302 million), adding up to 26 new gates, a huge private apron for smaller aircraft and a new carpark. The airport is private and operated by  Aeroporto Rio de Janeiro, controlled by Grupo Odebrecht (60%) and Changi Airport Group of Singapore (40%) who paid R$19 billion for the rights until 2039.

The airport is also a cargo hub, with several international cargo carriers operating regular and scheduled cargo services to the airport, and a maintenance hub with European carriers (like TAP Portugal) choosing to base its South American operations here.

Santos Dumont Airport

The second airport to Galeao International Airport, Santos acts as the cities domestic counterpart, much like Congonhas Airport in São Paulo (in-fact, it was the destination of that famous airbridge service). It is very small for its operations, and located in a hazardous area of the city (near the famous Sugar Loaf mountain), and thus is locked for 19 operations/hour. This makes it a high demand airport thanks to its location, but ticket prices high for passengers.  The main terminal buildings were overhauled back in 2009 for the cities upcoming events, with the private operator spending around R$152.2 million (US$80.2 million; EUR64.5 million).

There have been calls for the airport to be closed and operations moved to one of the many other suitable sites in the area, as access to one of the runways either forces incoming planes over high peaks over the city or around the aforementioned coastal Sugarloaf mountain. With the fall in air traffic over the world, it is quite possible that this plan will gather momentum, and property developers will gain access to the lucrative land.

Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport

The capital airport of Brazil, Brasília’s Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport, is the newest on this list and didn’t really exist more than 60 years ago (it was just a dusty runway when the planned city was still a concept). However, today it is a political and economical focus point of the Brazilian aviation industry, serving up to 16,727,177 passengers in 2019. As the head of the Brazilian state, many partner countries operate regular services to the country, and wealthy government servants use the airport exclusively to fly to far-flung holiday destinations. It is also the main domestic gateway to reach the other airports in Brazil, especially Rio and São Paulo to the south.

The airport is a little slow in its development, opening up a second airport in only 2005 and a second domestic terminal in 2014. Like other Brazilian airports when Rio won the Olympics and Brazil the FIFA World Cup, it got a slew of new investment (R$514.8 million (US$306.06 million; EUR224.76 million)) to update all of its terminal buildings and acquire additional aircraft parking.

As the airport is the flagship for the Brazilian aviation sphere, it is technologically advanced and the local authority seems willing to spend funds on marvels – such as twin cleaning robots that can keep the terminal spotless, or facial recognition passport controls.

Tancredo Neves-Confins International Airport

Also known as Belo Horizonte International Airport, it serves Brazil’s biggest city Belo Horizonte and was originally the overspill airport for the cities main strip at Carlos Drummond de Andrade Airport. The plan originally was for airlines to slowly move away from the original and to the new Tancredo Neves-Confins in 1985, but thanks to the proximity and popularity of the original, airlines were reluctant. Thus the local airport authority decided that the only plans that could land at Carlos would be 50 seaters or private aircraft, and almost overnight airlines moved to the new facility.

There are two terminals, with the first operating international flights and the later domestic operations. Like many Brazilian airports, it is privatized and a consortium of CCR (75%) and the administrator of Munich and Zurich Airports (25%) controls its operations until 2044.

Today the airport boasts numbers that place it in the top five, with 1,075,145 passengers in January 2020. It has a huge cargo capacity of 18,000 tones (39.682.000 lb) per cycle and is the maintenance hub for national carrier Goa Airlines. The government wants this area to be an aviation hub, and is offering tax incentives for companies that set up operations in this ‘industrial airport’.

Growth opportunities

Brazil has a dynamic range of airports that have recently received government investing, and thanks to plentiful support from the government, aviation has abundant growth opportunities on the horizon. If you are an aviation firm or an airline looking for a local expert in the Brazilian landscape, then let Eways Aviation be your partner. With on-the-ground contacts and insider knowledge, we can help you navigate the complex web of airports and government regulation in this jewel of South America. Contact us today.