The Q400 extends its lead across the continent
While most eyes are fixed on the booming Asia-Pacific market, important fleet and industry changes are taking place across Africa, the third fastest growing market in the world. The Cameroon airline, Camair-Co, is no exception. Bolstered by its premier role in the African Football Champion of Nations, the airline is adding Bombardier Q400s to its fleet.
The company's decision to dry-lease the Bombardier plane was notable because it is part of a trend toward African airlines reconfiguring their fleets to better serve and build strong intra-regional markets to support international service. The aircraft marks a significant departure for Camair-Co which had previously chosen China Aviation Industry Corporation's MA60s as its turboprop. Camair-Co now joins a large number of African airlines choosing the Q400 for its versatility, reliability, and ruggedness.
“The planes serving African markets must be robust, with the ability to operate safely and securely in tough conditions, including Africa's hot, dry climate and rougher runways," said Jean-Paul Boutibou, vice president of Middle East & Africa for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “The Q400 offers new opportunities for passenger, charter and cargo operations and brings more versatility and higher payloads to mining and energy operations which are key to economic growth in several countries."
Strength in numbers
The Q400s success in Africa shows no sign of abating. Already on record as the leading turboprop in Africa from 2012 to 2017, the move by Camair-Co preceded two new orders for Bombardier's Q400. In May 2018, the Air Connection Express, Transportes Aereos S.A, based in Luanda, Republic of Angola, purchased six Q400 aircraft. The $198 million Angolan order shortly followed a re-order of the Q400 by Ethiopian Airways. The $332 million Ethiopian order adds 10 additional Q400 aircraft to the airline's fleet along with the purchase rights for five more aircraft in the future.
The right tool for the right job
For airlines looking to build stronger and more profitable operations, the Q400 provides the optimal combination of range, speed, payload and economics to build markets and feed hubs. The fastest turboprop in its class, the Q400 is twice as productive as its competition, which equals more flights per day and more opportunities for profit. While its ruggedness and operational efficiencies may make it the largest selling turboprop in the African market, it complements larger aircraft and addresses high international traveler expectations.
Its many configurations include being the only turboprop offering a true business class, complete with exclusive boarding, lavatory, and galley. In addition, Bombardier offers a cargo-combi Q400 affording increased cargo lift from outlying airports. The cargo-combi Q400 complements the cargo conversions for the Bombardier's Q300, CRJ200s, and CRJ700s, all with large cargo doors.
Given its versatility and reputation for reliability and safety, the Q400 will be the official transport aircraft for the African Football Champion of Nations in 2019, hosted by Cameroon. The country's national airline, Camair-Co will use the Q400s to fly home and international teams nationwide.
Matching the aircraft to the mission
While much has been written of African carriers trying to compete against the big Middle Eastern carriers, efforts to date have not unlocked the market because of a missing key – developing regional networks to support these flights. Ethiopian's newly-expanded regional fleet of Q400s is instrumental in supporting the airline's international business.
“The Bombardier turboprops continue to deliver unmatched performance to our operators, and we are proud that the flag carrier of Ethiopia has experienced its tremendous value in service," said Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “The market trend for high-performing and larger turboprops is intensifying, and this fifth reorder is a great example of the Q400 turboprop success story and the value it creates for clients around the world."
Q400s are the low-risk tools with the economics and efficiency to build the domestic market and offer an alternative to older, less efficient turboprops or regional jets. Similarly, the Q400, best seat cost in its class, allowed JamboJet to launch a growth strategy and open new destinations in the East African region to respond to the anticipated increased demand in business and leisure travel.
The aircraft offers a dozen additional seats compared with other turboprops in the market, allowing airlines to accommodate the growing demand on the continent.
“In many markets, airlines are choosing more nimble planes that offer better value than larger aircraft," said Boutibou. “By building regional markets, airlines are capturing feed from these markets in order to fill seats in their larger aircraft and establish a strong footing from which to compete on the global stage."
Looking for a yield booster
Given the importance of profitability for today's airlines, nothing is more important than right-sizing a fleet. For too long, airlines have wanted the caché of a large jet, which has created a vicious cycle of discounting in order to fill seats, which, in turn, depressed yields. Right-sizing breaks that cycle.
Airlines like Camair-Co now leverage aircraft like the Q400 for profitability. Investing in the right aircraft for the market means rejecting the lowest-cost-per-seat mile strategy in favor of trip costs, putting smaller aircraft into markets to drive higher yields. The Q400 is half the size and cost of a single-aisle, narrow-body aircraft thus it significantly lowers the economic and operational risks in order to drive those yields.
Intra-regional service key to the future
Using aircraft too large for a market resulted in the loss of 4,000 intra-regional markets globally in 2016. The importance of intra-regional markets cannot be underestimated, since over eighty percent of all global passenger enplanements were intra-regional in 2016.
Africa was home to seven of the top 10 growing markets in 2015, according to NTU-SBF Center for African Studies. In fact, Africa's intra-regional traffic is expected to account for a five percent annual growth rate in the future and, by 2036, will supersede all other African traffic.
With 76 percent of the African fleet, 500 aircraft, scheduled to retire, according to forecasts, airlines have an unprecedented opportunity to match the aircraft to the mission and exploit the economics of turboprops. Oil prices are projected to rise between USD 80 to USD 100-per barrel, making replacement with the right aircraft imperative.
Part of a larger purpose
As an initiative to transform intra-regional African air travel, the African Union (AU) launched the Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM) in 2018. Modelled after single aviation markets in places like Latin America and Europe, the AU says SAATM will create a single unified air transport market and serve as "an impetus to the continent's economic integration agenda." The Q400 directly supports this key AU priority - establishing stronger aviation networks across Africa to boost domestic and foreign investment and support the government's goal for connectivity in a global marketplace.
For the past two decades, airlines in over 90 countries have relied on the Q400 to strengthen their networks while offering passengers a safe and comfortable journey. Bombardier is proud to warmly welcome Camair-Co to the Q400 family.
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