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Lonrho considers forming new Angolan carrier

Diversified infrastructure, transport and mining group Lonrho is to study the establishment of a new airline in Angola to meet the demands for air links within the country and to other points in Africa.

It is to co-operate with aircraft operating company Planar, a subsidiary of Angolan internal investment firm Sociedade de Gestate e Participacoes Financieras (GEFI), which has hangar space and offices at the Angolan capital’s Luanda Airport.

While the three-month study, the subject of a memorandum of understanding between Lonrho and GEFI, is still in its early stages, the carrier is intended to address the passenger, freight, leasing and air charter markets.

Lonrho chairman and chief executive David Lenigas tells ATI that the carrier would initially concentrate on domestic routes, serving cities such as Saurimo and the oil-industry territories. First flights could begin before the end of this year.

“Angola is seriously crying out for proper scheduled aviation services,” he says. “And we’re sick and tired of Africa having to fly around in whatever tired old dregs the world wants to throw at it.”

The airline would probably follow a similar development to the regional carrier Fly540 which Lonrho set up in Kenya last year. Fly540 began operating with ATR 42 aircraft on domestic routes from Nairobi and is acquiring additional aircraft to expand this year.

“We’re pulling people off the roads in Kenya,” says Lenigas, adding that the company aims to achieve similar success in Angola. GEFI, he points out, already has necessary licences and authorisations to operate certain routes.

Lenigas says that the study will help determine the fleet requirements for the new carrier and that the partners should have a clearer view in about a month’s time.

Availability will be an issue, he says, pointing out that ATR aircraft have becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, and Lenigas adds that – depending on the forecast traffic demands – the fleet “might be a combination” of turboprops and jets.

“We believe that the new airline can rapidly become a significant part of an expanding domestic market in Angola and a buoyant natural resources market across Africa,” he says.

Lonrho’s air transport involvement on the continent also extends to South Africa where it has an interest in aviation logistics company Norse Air.

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