- Air Senegal International has expanded its capabilities by purchasing yet another new airplane, capable of making trans-Atlantic flights. The Moroccan-Senegalese carrier within four years of its establishment has managed to become one of Africa's leading airliners.
The US company Boeing and Air Senegal have announced the delivery of the carrier's third Boeing Next-Generation 737-700. The new airplane is equipped with winglets, making it more fuel efficient and offering greater range. The latest airplane to join Air Senegal's fleet was purchased directly from Boeing with financing guarantees by the US government's Ex-Im Bank. The airline currently has two 737-700s on lease, as well as a 737-500.
This first direct purchase of an airplane was seen as "a milestone in our growth as an airline," according to Air Senegal CEO Mohamed Fattahi. "We are excited about our future prospects and we will continue on our successful course," Mr Fattahi added. The airplane would allow Air Senegal "to add new regional routes in West Africa and increased flights to Europe."
Air Senegal International was launched in early 2001 by Group Royal Air Maroc and the Senegalese government, which holds a 49 percent interest in the airline. It was established after the collapse of the Senegal-based company Air Afrique. Air Senegal is controlled by the Moroccan airliner and forms part of the Moroccan group.
The Senegalese-Moroccan airliner rapidly noted successes on the international market. In autumn of 2003, the carrier received recognition as the top "African Airline of the Year" by the trade press.
By then, it had established several lines to Europe - including Paris, Marseille, Milan, Lisbon and Madrid - and to African cities such as Conakry, Bamako, Abidjan, Niamey and Praia. The number of passengers has increased four-folds since 2001 and partnership agreements with Kenya Airways and South African Airways (SAA) have been signed.
For the Senegalese government, the failures of Air Afrique have turned into success with Air Senegal. The country's main airport, Dakar-Yoff, is slowly returning into a regional hub, serving connections between Europe, West Africa, the Canary Islands, South Africa and North America - the latter via SAA. Contrary to Air Afrique, the Dakar government is not obliged to subsidise its new carrier.
Senegal's Minister of Tourism and Air Transport, Ousmane Masseck Ndiaye, recently reaffirmed his satisfaction with the airliner, urging Air Senegal "never to grant air tickets to travelling members of the government." The young carrier should not be concerned over possible government interference as Senegal had learned its lessons from Air Afrique's failures, the Minister assured.
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