Côte d’Ivoire: Alassane Ouattara is working to strengthen the national airline’s connections

By Baudelaire Mieu, Julien Clémençot
Posted on Wednesday, 11 May 2022 16:10

Planes are seen during the first day of resumed Air Cote d'Ivoire internal flights amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Felix Houphouet Boigny International airport, in Abidjan, Cote d' Ivoire June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Solicited by several of his counterparts who would like to see Ivorian planes land in their respective countries, Côte d'Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara is preparing to open a line to Paris.

Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embaló dreamed of having direct flights from Abidjan to Bissau. Alassane Ouattara and Air Côte d’Ivoire have fulfilled this dream. Since 17 May, the airline’s Airbus A319 and A320neo have been connecting the two capitals three times a week in less than three hours, thus achieving the Guinea-Bissau head of state’s desire to open up his country. Previously, passengers had to make a stopover, usually in Dakar. Several studies have however shown that this route will not be profitable due to a lack of passengers, so Embaló has agreed to cover 50% of the new route’s losses.

Although this project is diplomatically motivated, it also signals the desire of the Ivorian national airline – which serves about 20 international destinations in West and Central Africa, as well as New York, via its code-share with Ethiopian Airlines – to resume its network’s development following two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thus, from June onwards, the company will also be operating flights between Abidjan and Johannesburg, via Kinshasa, with an Airbus A320neo. This route had previously been abandoned by South African Airways. During a visit to Côte d’Ivoire at the end of 2021, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed this issue with Ouattara. Other route openings or reopenings, this time with the CAR and Sierra Leone, are also being explored with heads of state Faustin-Archange Touadéra and Julius Maada Bio, respectively.

The Ivorian company, which has stabilised its finances and is awaiting the implementation of a competitiveness plan validated by the presidential palace, is especially keen to reach Paris. The company’s board of directors has approved the project, which will see the first flights take off in 2024. “From this perspective, increasing the number of regional routes makes sense. The aim is to strengthen Félix-Houphouët-Boigny airport’s position as a regional hub to fill up with passengers bound for France,” says a person close to the dossier.

The company is currently considering the possibility of buying a long-haul aircraft. Although it is leaning towards buying an Airbus A330-900, the state has not yet agreed to finance the purchase. In addition, a similar aircraft will be leased to operate during the former’s maintenance periods. Apart from Johannesburg, these two aircraft will also fly to Beirut, which is being considered for service.

General Abdoulaye Coulibaly, Chairman of Air Côte d’Ivoire’s board of directors, is also expected to get Abidjan to limit competition on the future route to Paris. Air France and Corsair, which currently link the two capitals, will eventually operate the same number of flights as the Ivorian company. Finally, Air France’s departure from the Ivorian national carrier’s capital will need to be arranged. The French company, which voted in favour of Air Côte d’Ivoire’s development plan, had announced at the latter’s launch that it would not remain in the capital if Abidjan started operating flights to Paris.

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