Can the Avinode Marketplace help the development of the African air charter market? Oliver King, managing director, Avinode, thinks it can.
Changes are afoot in Africa’s business aviation market. While the overall demand for private aviation in Africa is steady, there has been a significant increase in domestic flight requests through the Avinode Marketplace in the past year.
We have seen a 36% increase in domestic air charter requests in Africa in the last 12 months and an 81% increase in aircraft numbers within the Avinode system in the region. We have added more than 20 new aircraft to our fleet in South Africa alone.
Unstable conditions across Africa, politically and geographically, mean air travel is the natural option for business travellers needing to connect between countries but local commercial airlines are often unreliable and have limited frequency and scheduling. With flexibility and safety paramount, private aviation in Africa has, therefore, always been a popular option for business executives, politicians and heads of state.
However, the African private aviation market has, until recently, remained largely an impenetrable environment, widely regarded as a niche market closed to growth or improvement.
Avinode’s charter sales team for Africa holds regular discussions with brokers and operators in the region. Greg Ermes at Elite Jet tells us: “A few countries in Africa do not allow outside charter companies to operate aircraft within their own borders, trying instead to force the client to utilise their own charter companies. This ‘cabotage’ is a growing concern in Africa which, if approached correctly, can really only be managed and overcome if you are dealing with a reputable charter operator.”
There are clear challenges in operating in Africa but the use of charter flights for business purposes is certainly on the rise. By Greg’s reckoning, 95% of people who begin to use charter continue to do so. That’s a big claim, but justifiable in an environment where business aviation is a necessary means to an end.
At Avinode, we see the landscape of Africa’s business aviation market changing and aim to support those changes. The challenge is to build awareness of air charter transportation as an option in the region.
An enormous continent, with a poor commercial airline infrastructure compared to many parts of the world, represents a great opportunity for private aviation. Africa is resource-rich and needs the means to transport business executives and landowners to important, often remote, locations. To date, word of mouth has been a great driver of air charter in the region but all parties involved in the industry – from operators and brokers to fixed-base operations (FBOs) – can work to promote the charter option.
At Avinode, we can help to bring much-needed exposure to players in the region, to help them grow as well as providing the tools to support that growth. With that increased exposure brings demand for charter to the African operators.
As an industry we also need to build trust in Africa’s charter product. The facts are on our side. A number of African operators based across the continent have invested heavily in building world-class operations, often with international accreditation. And there are many European- or US-registered aircraft flying into the region to meet local needs. The standards of private aviation services in Africa are undoubtedly rising.
The majority of Avinode’s business is from repeat customers but more and more new business is coming in. We can help new travel buyers in Africa find the aircraft their customers need. We can plan safe and efficient travel into the region from Europe and the US.
London, Paris and Geneva are already key gateways into Africa and, as well as strengthening operations from those locations, we can look to add new gateways. With an increase of aircraft in the region and higher visibility of air charter, Avinode is determined to bring more business to the growing number of operators and brokers in the region.