Gambia Bird launches operations with wet-leased A319

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Gambia Bird has become west Africa's newest flag carrier after beginning scheduled services on 22 October with an Airbus A319 wet leased from partner Germania.

The 2011-vintage aircraft (MSN 4663, registration D-ASTA) will be deployed on two services during its first day of operations.

After initially operating a round-trip from the Gambian capital Banjul to the Senegalese capital Dakar, it will then fly on a round-trip connecting service from Banjul to Accra, Ghana via Monrovia, Liberia.

Chief commercial officer Karsten Balke says the company is not branding itself as a low-cost carrier, despite plans by Stelios Haji-Ioannou's FastJet to enter west Africa in 2013.

"We are not offering a low-cost airline," he says in a statement. "Our aim is to build a reputation for quality and reliability via our scheduled and punctual services with a choice of affordable ticket options."

Balke adds that Gambia Bird aims to capitalise on the "phenomenal" growth predicted for west Africa over the coming years.

"Whilst we acknowledge there are significant challenges within the region's infrastructure to overcome, it is these very challenges that provide the springboard for a successful airline," he says.

The flag carrier intends to launch additional services to Freetown in Sierra Leone, Conakry in Guinea, London and Barcelona. It will take delivery of a second A319 in December.

Chief executive and co-founder Thomas Wazinski also serves as director of Germania Express and Germania Technik Brandenburg GmbH.

Alongside its links with the Germania Group, Gambia Bird has signed a long-term power-by-the-hour contract with aircraft spares support provider A J Walter Aviation.