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zhiao
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Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:36 pm

Routes to Sub-Saharan African have always intrigued me, given the economic and politics of these places.


1. I noticed tha SN, LH, AF, and even BA have extensive route systems to countries like Malawi, Ruwanda, DRC, RC, CAR, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc. What kind of demand is there on these routes? I am assuming premium heavy business traffic related to precious metals, natural resources, money laundering, WB/UN/EU bureaucrats, and then also an element of exotic tourism (related to mostly Safaris)?

2. Do flight crews actually stay overnight in these poor, dangerous cities? What precautions are taken? Are there any decent, safe hotels in Kinshahsha, Bangui, Monrovia, Harare, Freetown, Abidjan? Of al the cities in SSA, which is the most notorious?

3. Do the European airlines manage to get decent catering from these places? Is it the same quality as from Europe?

4. Is there any chance of seeing more US-SSA routes in the future? There is much more today than before, and actually DL's in relatively impressive, but it is still nothing like LH, BA, AF or SN.
 
oneworld77
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:10 pm

1. Not all the airlines you mention fly to all of these cities; demand is high, at least given the cost of tickets that are not part of corporate deals or for sale at very discounted local Travel agents.
Depending on the type of Country (democratic, emerging democracy, technocratic, dictatorial, 'strong-man' democracy etc) there could be a lot of local public sector travel (for the bosses!) resource industries and the aid industries play a huge part in demand (World Bank, IMF, ABD, UN, EU even MERCOSUR and of course the AU (African Union).

Very little money laundering is done 'physically' these days - with the remaining exception of the 'diplomatic pouch' or local variant. Allegedly very prevalent in/from Zimbabwe.

Rwanda - of the specific countries you mention, is not very exotic, at least to Europeans (not say in comparison to Sao Tome, Comoros or the CAR) in fact you quite often get a great lake tour that takes in all the neighbours and then get whisked off to SA or Kenya for 5 days on the beach before heading home!

2. Poor by what comparison? Harare is far more 'rich' than Freetown, Abidjan more than Bangui. On the other hand there is more wealth IN Kinshasa than N'djamena, for example. Yes - I have stayed (not crew) in very acceptable hotels in Monrovia and Abidjan and Harare. Patience is a virtue in these cities, but I never felt in danger. By comparison, I've been once and will NEVER return to LOS, the only place (bar South Central LA) where I felt in danger.
Asking which is the most notorious is difficult to answer. Each airline does an assessment on each city and will have their own and external security and risk rating and monitoring. For example - Luanda never used to see BA crew overnight (not sure if they do now, though).

3. One doesn't travel to have the same catering at home!! There is a minimum standard of service that will be applied and there will be standard levels of hygiene that have to be met. However, the food, in my humble experience, has always had a local 'flavour'. (Pee Cola anyone?)

4. Not sure on that - there is the historical element of ties between Europe and Africa. Monrovia - US, of course, is the exception and the World Airways 'charters' from Luanda. However, there is a perception that these are dangerous places to be and to do business. Perhaps that put's carriers off?

Just one point, sub saharan Africa is quite a generic 'research term'. It doesn't reflect the local traditions, tribes or histories shared or argued by and between these countries. It's a bit like lumping North Dakotans in with Oregonians. Neither would appreciate it.

'SSA' is more generally broken down to Horn of Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa - although again, these are generic labels that don't do the user any justice!!
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Viscount724
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:43 pm

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):
What kind of demand is there on these routes? I am assuming premium heavy business traffic related to precious metals, natural resources, money laundering, WB/UN/EU bureaucrats, and then also an element of exotic tourism (related to mostly Safaris)?

Also a lot of VFR traffic in many markets. If you have ever visited BRU you would note the large African community there, probably mainly from the former Belgian colonies. The same applies for France and their many former African territories.
 
zhiao
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:21 pm

SN in particular has a very impressive route list to SSA. BA I think used to have more, but of course, they used to have a lot more of Asia too.

So you are saying that in all the SSA cities flows by EU carriers, that crew members are always given accomodations as opposed to staying on the plane and going back same day?
 
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MillwallSean
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:44 pm

First i wanted to scream american and their image of the world but you have asked nice questions and the username sounds more chinese than american so...

It's not colonial times and unpaved streets in Africa.
Some of the major cities have very US like skylines.
Youll find many major hotelchains (I can recommend Accor) in the big cities. Youll find the same premier league football shown everywhere, Guinness adverts, a few fake irish pubs and you'll be able to order western food at virtually every street.
You wont see any McDonalds but you can find KFC in some African countries, like Nigeria.

They offer

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):

1. I noticed tha SN, LH, AF, and even BA have extensive route systems to countries like Malawi, Ruwanda, DRC, RC, CAR, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc. What kind of demand is there on these routes? I am assuming premium heavy business traffic related to precious metals, natural resources, money laundering, WB/UN/EU bureaucrats, and then also an element of exotic tourism (related to mostly Safaris)?

Huge VFR demand to Europe.
Plenty of business too. the same major companies that you'll find anywhere in the world will have their office in african capitals as well.
SSA is one of the fastest growing business regions in the world. Cities are developing at a speed hardly seen outside India etc. These days it's not aid agencies its business.

Safaris goes to Eastern Africa - like Kenya/Tanzania, or the southern countries in Africa mainly.

As said DRC is heavy in commodities. But so is West Africa, different commodities, cocoa etc from western africa is very common.
The major African cities is full of shopping and office boulevards just like most other cities.

Gambia, not for the airlines mentioned but for the charters, is a beach destination for Europeans. Have been that for a few decades known to attract 50 year old women looking for toyboys in the same way Thailand and Philippines received sex tourism. (Even though they call it gf experiences etc hehe)

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):

3. Do the European airlines manage to get decent catering from these places? Is it the same quality as from Europe?

For a passenger in all sort of classes to Africa I have never had any food complaints, I say its made to specifications.
No big deal or anything to worry about.
I have seen the same Gate Gourmet / LSG skychefs lorries in Africa as I see in the rest of the world.

My own take on the food is that the food on a European airline out of Africa tend to be better than the airlinefood the same carriers get out of the US...
In general I prefer airline food made in Asia or Africa.

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):

2. Do flight crews actually stay overnight in these poor, dangerous cities? What precautions are taken? Are there any decent, safe hotels in Kinshahsha, Bangui, Monrovia, Harare, Freetown, Abidjan? Of al the cities in SSA, which is the most notorious?

Yeah there are 5 star hotels with utmost security in all those places. Same chains as in most places and they have same internet and wifi as anywhere else in the world. Cities such as Abidjan, Accra etc are modern cities for a visiting westerner. Accor have what 5 different properties in Abidjan.

Those smaller cities in countries previously ravaged by war such as Monrovia struggles more. But you'll find decent accommodation I am sure.
Africa have their own upper and middle classes, that drive fancy European/asian cars and enjoy shopping and fine dining. Hotels tend to be in the nice and more wealthy districts of the city too.
Since Africa is hot for most people there are shoppingmalls, they offer security guards so you'll be just fine if you stay in these places. (However you will miss out the experiences but each to his own).

If you ever wanted to worry about something it might be the bars and the transport to the hotel.

As mentioned earlier arriving late into Lagos isn't for the fainthearted and nothing I would recommend anyone to do...
For me though Nigeria is bad, driving in South Africa isn't a bed of roses either...
If you want the worst well from what perspective?
There are provinces in Angola that are bad, there are things in Eastern DRC that I don't think can be described etc but for a visiting westerner that travels to the capitals you wont have much problems if you travel, stay in 4 or 5 star hotels and read a few websites before going.
Out of the places I have been to, Nigeria is tough.
But there are heaps of westerners in Nigeria, heaps, so it's not that bad. The people are great, do give them a smile if something frustrates you, smiles solves more than frustration.
No One Likes Us - We Dont Care.
 
BNAOWB
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:03 am

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):
I noticed tha SN, LH, AF, and even BA have extensive route systems to countries like Malawi, Ruwanda, DRC, RC, CAR, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc.

Do these European carriers ever connect passengers flying between 2 African cities that have limited service between them? A hypothetical example would be Abidjan-CDG-Pointe Noire (assuming there is limited service between Abidjan and Pointe Noire). Or, is a European connection typically impractical in terms of additional travel time and price?
 
louA340
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:30 am

Quoting BNAOWB (Reply 5):
Do these European carriers ever connect passengers flying between 2 African cities that have limited service between them? A hypothetical example would be Abidjan-CDG-Pointe Noire (assuming there is limited service between Abidjan and Pointe Noire). Or, is a European connection typically impractical in terms of additional travel time and price?

I remember my dad needed to travel to Asmara from Accra for work and he mentioned that it was actually cheaper, easier and more convenient to fly with LH via Frankfurt. I don't know if this has changed, but it use to be very difficult travelling regionally in West Africa. The easiest route would usually be to fly direct to Europe and connect back down.
African destinations are high profit routes for a lot of the European airlines, and I believe DL African routes are up there on its list in terms of revenue.
 
ba286
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:38 am

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):
3. Do the European airlines manage to get decent catering from these places? Is it the same quality as from Europe?

It's safe to say that all of the return catering comes in on the inbound flight. It may be offloaded and stored in freezers at the airport, or, chilled in the plane. This is fairly standard procedure where catering is deemed "unrealiable." Drinking water is always brought in.
E190 A318 A319 A320 A343 ATR42 717 732 733 734 735 737 738 744 752 772 DC-10 MD-11
 
zhiao
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:16 am

^Interesting. Any confirmed cities where this happens?
 
mainMAN
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:06 am

Quoting louA340 (Reply 6):
I remember my dad needed to travel to Asmara from Accra for work and he mentioned that it was actually cheaper, easier and more convenient to fly with LH via Frankfurt.

Very true, I remember once reading an article about SN which stated that it's common for people flying between African cities to transfer through BRU ......... for example, Bujumbura to Dakar.

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):
2. Do flight crews actually stay overnight in these poor, dangerous cities? What precautions are taken? Are there any decent, safe hotels in Kinshahsha, Bangui, Monrovia, Harare, Freetown, Abidjan? Of al the cities in SSA, which is the most notorious?

Harare isn't dangerous and I wouldn't imagine Bangui is either. The most notoriously dangerous city in SSA has got to be Johannesburg (or certain parts of)

(Edit - not to mention Mogadishu!)

[Edited 2011-09-26 02:08:52]
 
Flyingsottsman
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:25 am

What a great question and very interesting reading aswell. Always wanted to know about SSA and flights in and out of and do airlines make money on some of those routes. We always hear all the bad things about those countrys and how dangerous those citys are, very interesting to hear the other side of things.

Quoting MillwallSean (Reply 4):
1. I noticed tha SN, LH, AF, and even BA have extensive route systems to countries like Malawi, Ruwanda, DRC, RC, CAR, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, etc. What kind of demand is there on these routes?

I supose, because alot of those Countrys in Africa in general, got their indpendence from Belgum, France and Britian and they would still have ties to those countrys so airlines like AF, SN and BA would have plenty of business on those routes.
 
okapi
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:29 am

Quoting zhiao (Thread starter):

A lot of very good answers indeed. Africa is not poor. Africans are not rich. Yet, you do have a lot of expats visiting subsidiaries of European firms, and there's a lot of them, not only in the oil/mining business. Many africans return to their home countries for both holidays and business. Europeans travel much more to Africa than Americans, yet you'd be surprised by the large number of US-based priests and other evangelists on board AF/SN flights. Add to that diplomats of all kind, and now more than ever, a huge number of Chinese and Indian businessmen. AF/KL have a lot of connecting flights throughout Europe.
Last but not least, cargo which plays an important role. AF operates full cargo planes along these pax routes. Traditionnally fresh food northbound and hi-tech/industrial southbound. Look at Cargolux's flight to Kinshasa...and other cities.
Airline crew stay at world-class hotels. I remember AF crew on the Kinshasa flight being ferried (private B1900) to either BZV or LBV. In Luanda, they sleep during the day at the Méridien or other. These precise locations are never really disclosed for safety reasons. But danger-wise, I recall TP crew being robbed in Brazil some time ago, so I guess Africa is not the most dangerous place in the world. Avoid the in-famous RER B between Paris downtown and CDG at late hours and I would not feel any safer in many other large Euro or North American cities either.
 
AirGAbon
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:30 am

AF crews stay overnight in Dakar, Conakry, Abidjan, Bamako, Ouagadougou, Lome, Cotonou, Port-Harcourt, Douala, Yaounde, N'Djamena, Bangui, Libreville, Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Kinshasa, Malabo, Luanda, Djibouti, Johannesburg... Yes, there are very decent, safe and comfortable hotels, and no particular problems.

The most dangerous cities are Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Johannesburg, more than Bangui, Abidjan (now) and Kinshasa.

Don't be so impressed by Africa  
 
ywgjets
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:28 pm

Some observations on airline logistics in Africa.

On SN 465 (BRU-KGL-EBB-BRU) crews work the flight until Entebbe then head to a 5-star beach resort on the shores of Lake Victoria a 10 minute drive from the airport. They then work the EBB-BRU segment on the next flight. The SN crew explained KL crews do the same thing on their AMS-KGL-EBB-AMS flights. SN may also do something similar on the BRU-BJM-NBO-BRU with crews working the flight until Nairobi, then laying over.

In Dakar, it appeares SN crews lay over in town (there are many fine seaside resorts). It also seemed there were other European airline crews in town.

AF provides the only inter-continental connection to Niamey, and crews do not lay over likely due to the security situation. AF 546/547 is routed CDG-NIM-OUA-NIM-CDG. The leg from Niamey to Ouagadougou is likely only for crew positioning purposes as the A340 I boarded in NIM had maybe 24 people who boarded in OUA, and it left NIM nearly full.
While AF does not lay crews over in NIM, other airlines do, including ASky and Air Burkina.

It was mentioned earlier that travelling withing Africa can be challenging. Travelling between two cities, even withing the same region can take several hours with multiple stopovers (for example, DKR-NIM, ACC-BKO). Travelling across the continent can be even more challenging. For example, back in July I flew EBB-ADD-LFW-ABJ-OUA-NIM, taking 18 hours to travel just over 2000 miles. It would have been equally feasible to go via AMS and CDG or DXB and ABJ.
 
ETinCaribe
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:12 pm

Hello zhiao,

To add to the many great comments already provided, (and ignoring some of the stereotypes in the OP) other non European carriers are also expanding into Africa - like TK, EK, QR, RJ, Gulf, etc. That is on top of the RAM and MS in particular who offer one stop connection to many SSA countries/capitals from Europe.

Also note that for many like AF and BA, African destinations are some of the most profitable routes. While not providing huge volumes, they still contribute to the respective carriers bottomlines (don't have specifics but can dig up public info if needed) - LUN, LOS, Pointe Noire, to name a few destinations, of course oil driven...

Quoting ywgjets (Reply 13):

It was mentioned earlier that travelling withing Africa can be challenging. Travelling between two cities, even withing the same region can take several hours with multiple stopovers (for example, DKR-NIM, ACC-BKO). Travelling across the continent can be even more challenging. For example, back in July I flew EBB-ADD-LFW-ABJ-OUA-NIM, taking 18 hours to travel just over 2000 miles. It would have been equally feasible to go via AMS and CDG or DXB and ABJ.

That is a big challenge still - regional/sub-regional connections. Intra African routes are probably optimized for Africa-rest of the world connections (e.g. KIN-ADD-Whereever) when it used to be more of longer chain of cities in the past (e.g. ADD-NBO-KIN-LOS-ABJ) The net of it all is that there are many opportunities for additional growth on teh continent in both Inter-continental and Intra-African routes.
 
AF022
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:07 pm

Quoting ETinCaribe (Reply 14):
That is a big challenge still - regional/sub-regional connections. Intra African routes are probably optimized for Africa-rest of the world connections (e.g. KIN-ADD-Whereever) when it used to be more of longer chain of cities in the past (e.g. ADD-NBO-KIN-LOS-ABJ) The net of it all is that there are many opportunities for additional growth on teh continent in both Inter-continental and Intra-African routes.

ASKY seems to be doing well in connecting passengers within West Africa, and KQ and ET have good connections between East and West Africa. SAA is expanding in West Africa - i think they start service to COO soon.
 
zhiao
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:33 am

Quoting okapi (Reply 11):
Europeans travel much more to Africa than Americans

Analagous to US-Latin America, where there are many more US flights to LA?
 
Byrdluvs747
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:04 am

Quoting okapi (Reply 11):
Europeans travel much more to Africa than Americans,

By Americans, I assume you mean US citizens. However, I always wondered how much traffic flows between Africa and the Caribbean, and if MIA would be the most logical hub between Africa and the US.
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okapi
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:12 pm

Quoting Byrdluvs747 (Reply 17):

Yes indeed. Sorry for not being so precise. I obviously include our friends from Canara too. When it comes to the West Indies, I have no idea. Not many people living there to justify direct links. I suppose the best options remain transiting in LON, PAR and AMS. There are also a few flights between South / Central America and Africa although the flights from the US have increased dramatically over the past few years.
On a side note, I guess will see more and more flights to/from the Emirates as they carry a lot of US-based (premium) passengers even though the flight time is much longer. Connections are sometimes easier in DXB than in CDG or LON (long layover, no visa required, etc...), but please, keep in mind that the african continent is huge!
Cheers...
 
FlyASAGuy2005
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:02 am

There is money to be made in these regions contrary to what some may think. In 2011, there are many places where folks pay cash for their tickets at the local CTO.

Look at the Dominican Republic. I'm not trying to say its an apples and oranges comparison but take it for what its worth. JFK-STI, premium demand is near zero yet the average RT coach fare is usually between $400 and $900. Coach on DL going to STI was oversold by at least 20 consistently through the summer and now the same is true for the other direction heading back to the states.

Its clear why B6 has all but gone gangbusters in the DR. People can talk about VFR traffic all they want but these people pay the bills on many many flights that would otherwise not exist.
What gets measured gets done.
 
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Sepultallica
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:53 am

lol @ Harare being a 'dangerous city'. Granted, we aren't on par with Joburg (as yet) or LA for that matter, but let me tell you one thing man, I would rather take my chances driving around Harare CBD late at night in a blinged up Benz than have to pass through Oakland or Flint, MI in a Yugo at lunchtime.

To answer your question, yes, air crew were put up in 5 star hotels in downtown Harare. Lufthansa, Air France and KLM used to use Meikles Hotel, whilst Qantas, BA et al used either The Sheraton (before it was renamed to The Rainbow Towers) or The Monomatapa Crowne Plaza.
Chinokanganwa idemo; Chitsiga hachikanganwe. ✈
 
ETinCaribe
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RE: Question On Sub-Saharan African Routes

Fri Sep 30, 2011 3:06 am

Quoting Byrdluvs747 (Reply 17):
By Americans, I assume you mean US citizens. However, I always wondered how much traffic flows between Africa and the Caribbean, and if MIA would be the most logical hub between Africa and the US.

I don't think MIA would be a good gateway into the US from Africa. For one, the African diaspora here is very small. Then there is the language barrier at MIA. ATL, JFK, IAH, IAD, etc. are better entry points IMHO.

Quoting FlyASAGuy2005 (Reply 19):

Look at the Dominican Republic. I'm not trying to say its an apples and oranges comparison but take it for what its worth. JFK-STI, premium demand is near zero yet the average RT coach fare is usually between $400 and $900. Coach on DL going to STI was oversold by at least 20 consistently through the summer and now the same is true for the other direction heading back to the states.

Very true. SImilar examples exist b/w France and the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia in particular) for example. I can foresee similarly packed planes and at multiple frequencies going into LOS for instance from the US in the near future.

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