Mikail Houari is the President, Airbus Africa and Middle East. He spoke to Nnyonyi Magazine’s Michael Wakabi about what the A330-800neo changes for Uganda Airlines. Below are excerpts.
hat opportunities does the A330-800 open for Uganda Airlines?
The A330-800 is the smallest of Airbus’s next generation widebodies and is the lowest risk aircraft for starting long-haul operations. It will efficiently serve additional markets for Uganda Airlines, opening routes in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The A330neo offers a unique passenger experience – latest standards in passenger comfort and onboard entertainment. It also has the latest technologies producing significant reductions in fuel burn – 25% less fuel per seat than previous generation aircraft. The A330neo is environmentally sustainable with low emissions levels and low noise.
Over and above the operational benefits, aviation is an enabler of socio-economic development, driving tourism, trade, regional integration, job creation and local skills development.
As a manufacturer, what kind of support are you giving Uganda Airlines?
Airbus has been alongside Uganda Airlines since its inception, providing guidance and support. We are also supporting Uganda Airlines in different aspects. Firstly, a dedicated Airbus consulting team is embedded within Uganda airlines to ramp up readiness for wide body operations. Moreover, Airbus is training the resources (flight operations, engineering and maintenance) and supporting the procurement of spares parts, materials and tools.
What will be the key maintenance milestones for this aircraft and what options does the operator have in terms of accredited service points?
The A330neo maintenance program benefits from the in-service experience of the A330ceo (current engine option) for which maintenance intervals have extended as a result of low-level in-service findings. For the A330neo the first milestone is a light maintenance visit at 1,000 flight hours. Further milestones are a base maintenance visit at 24 and at 48 months.
Airbus maintenance program experts will also assist Uganda Airlines in their maintenance planning tasks for the A330neo. It is also worth mentioning that there are several MRO (maintenance and repair organizations) with A330 capabilities in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
What future do you see for the -800 series given the initial skepticism about it and, its modest sales tally relative to the larger 900?
There are more than 870 aircraft currently in-service (330-200 and 767) and due for replacement – the A330-800 would be the perfect replacement.
Given the growth profile of Uganda Airlines, what products do you have in your portfolio to address the emerging gap between the Mitsubishi CRJ and the A330?
The A220, a true small single-aisle, would be an ideal aircraft for Uganda. It will offer the airline additional connectivity thus making Uganda Airlines the carrier of choice for seamless connections from the region to London, Dubai, Mumbai and China.
For the first time in its 50-year history, Airbus has an unprecedented presence across eastern Africa, what has made your products so popular and how big is your fleet across Africa?
We’ve been present in Africa for the past 40 years and many African airlines operate Airbus aircraft. In fact, there are currently around 250 aircraft being flown by more than 32 African operators across the continent.
African airlines continue to choose Airbus given the efficiencies and advanced technology it provides to their fleet. Airlines such as RwandAir, Air Senegal, Air Tanzania, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Air Mauritius, South African Airways and Air Cote D’Ivoire and many more, have come on board.
What is your assessment of the prospects for African air transport and what must airlines and governments do to sustain and grow the cake?
African economies, before the pandemic, were demonstrating promising growth. As a key driver in economic activity and development, there has been a demand for air transport on the African continent. Governments across the continent are leveraging on the industry’s ability to bring about economic transformation.
Although the real impact of the pandemic on Africa’s airline industry is yet to be known, the COVID-19 crisis poses a threat not only to the current African aviation value chain but also to the tremendous progress made to improve the entire air-transport ecosystem on the continent.
Considering the inherent and extensive nature of aviation and the boundless possibilities and opportunities it offers Africa’s socio-economic development, it seems necessary for all stakeholders to strongly support the sector. Indeed, the ability of Africa’s aviation industry to recover from this global crisis will depend on the level of collaboration and support invested by all stakeholders to mitigate the effects of this unprecedented crisis.
Support from governments and development finance institutions will be particularly critical, be it direct financial support, loan guarantees or tax relief. We already see governments in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Uganda taking action.
For airlines, being adaptable will be crucial; with the expected decrease in passenger numbers, airline fleet composition and aircraft versatility will be put to the test. More than ever, it will be about flying the right aircraft at the right time, with flexible approaches to business models while operating economically efficient aircraft. Post-COVID, African airlines will require tailored market and fleet strategies.