In January 2000 a Kenya Airways Airbus A310 -304 Aircraft KQ 431 crashed off the Coast of Abidjan in Cote D’ivoire killing 169 Passengers with 10 Survivors.
The Country Manager of Kenya Airways in Nigeria John Mugo was on board. A Sales Manager of KLM Nigeria Mike Ubi also Perished in the Crashed Plane. KLM as Partners with KQ were the GSA for KQ in Nigeria
Both John and Mike were Personal Friends of Mine. Nigeria Airways had Just Opened Dubai as a Destination for Nigerians in 1999 and Kenya Airways was the First to fully Exploit the Route. The Flight to Lagos from Nairobi was Combined on Some Days with Abidjan in Cote D’ivoire.
The Aircraft Belonged to Kenya Airways, Most of the Passengers were Nigerians coming from Dubai.
The Aircraft is French Made and it Crashed in Cote D’ivoire. The Search and Rescue Operations were Politically Problematic. I was involved in the PR activities at Hotel Ivoire the base of the KQ team.
When the Black Box was Recovered a simulated battle took Place over who should take possession of the Black Box. The Kenyans did not trust the French to read the details accurately and the French didn’t want it taken to US or UK. Cote D’ivoire is French Territory too. So it was agreed that it be sent to Canada which is Bilingual. That much I learnt from the Beach encounter of that event.
Subsequently Kenya Airways Joined Ethiopian Airlines as an all Boeing Airline. Kenya Airways took Delivery in 2001 of B767 and became the Launch Customer for the B737 Next Generation Aircraft in Africa. It acquired the B767 to Replace the 2 A310 -300 it hitherto Operated. I was Privileged to be on the Inaugural flight of the B737 Next Gen in 2003 Piloted by Africa’s Finest Female Pilot Captain Irene Koki Mutungi.
That Ended Kenya Airways romance with Airbus.
Africa’s largest Airline Ethiopian Airlines ran a Boeing Operations along with a Fleet of 30 Q400 Dash 8 Turbo Props.
South African Airways had the B747 and Some Airbus Aircraft. EgyptAir had a large Boeing Operations. Royal Air Maroc also ran a Heavy Boeing Operations currently with 80 B737 Aircraft.
At the Secondary Market only 2 Aircraft types dominated the Nigerian Airspace. BAC111 and the Boeing 727 and 737.
Before Arik in 2005 with B737 -700 and Virgin Nigeria in 2008 with E170 Only Nigeria Airways bought Brand New Commercial Jet Aircraft in Nigeria.
Boeing Owned the Secondary Market in Africa.
It was against this Background that I told the VP of Sales at Airbus during my Visit to Toulouse France in 0ctober 2000 that Airbus has Failed in Africa.
Fast forward to December 2021 Airbus has Made a Huge resurgence in Africa if not a take Over.
South Africa Airways came back to Life and now have only the beautiful A330 and A350 Aircraft in Operation. Rwandair is Proud of its Two A330 alongside some B737 and Q400. Air Tanzania became the First African Airline to take the A220 to join its B787 Fleet. Now Egypair,Air Senegal and Nigerian IbomAir are also customers of the A220. Uganda Airlines also took delivery of the A330 -800 to Join the A330 Aircraft it had earlier Acquired.
The major Shift for Airbus happened When the Masters of Boeing in Africa ET with over 50 Boeings took Delivery of the first A350 in Africa in August 2016. It operates 16 pieces and have so Far almost Matched the number of A350 to its 19 B787s. Its Romance with Airbus is Blossoming as it has an Airbus Simulator and a Hangar in Place at Addis Ababa.
Air Cote D’ivoire is also an Airbus Operator.
Suddenly the Top African Airlines are Airbus Customers, Ethiopian with 16 A350 Aircraft ,EgyptAir has 9 A220,8 A320-200
4 A320 Neo,7 A330 -300. SAA now have only an Airbus Fleet of A350 and A330, Royal Air Maroc has 5 A330.
The Picture might not have Changed that Rapidly if the B737 Max 8 crash did not Happen in 2018. 2 Nigerian Airlines had already made huge Max 8 Orders before the Crash. Air Peace and Green Africa have since Moved to other Equipment types.
The Biggest loss of Market Share is in the Secondary Market. Most Nigerian Airlines went for Embraer and Airbus in their Ramp up Operations last Year. Even Arik Air that had more than 20 new Boeing Aircraft took an Airbus Aircraft for December Operations.
Recently Airbus announced that it delivered 611 Aircraft in 2021 as against 340 jets Delivered by Boeing in 2021 most of the 340 were the B737 Max Airplanes. Boeing Claimed that it Sold 909 Aircraft while Airbus Sold 711 in 2021. These are new Orders from Customers.
These Global Picture of Airbus Surpassing Boeing in Deliveries has been Mirrored in Africa.
The Question is How did Boeing Lose its Grip on Africa both in New Orders and the Secondary Market?
Sean Mendis an African Aviation Expert who was the Immediate Past COO of Award Winning Ghana Based African World Airlines AWA and with Vast Experience in Different African Countries seeks to provide an Answer. In his response to a Facebook Post I made he had this to Say.
“Things have changed over the last decade. Boeing has become more arrogant and dismissive of their smaller customers, especially those who are players in the after market rather than customers for large new build orders. Airbus in the meanwhile has taken a more ground-up approach by cultivating relationships without a commercial agenda to begin with. The regional players like Embraer have actually shown the way to break into the after market, and Airbus is following their lead. Boeing meanwhile has thrown Africa away and they probably don’t even realise it yet.
Airbus had traditionally marketed to African governments via the Elysee rather than to African airlines. That is the main change in their approach.
Boeing has taken its customers, the smaller operators in Africa, for granted. They approach their dealings with them as if it is a burden they have to bear rather than that they are serving customers. Their general attitude has been arrogant and the customers would much rather deal with manufacturers like Embraer and Airbus who they feel value them more.
it’s sad to see because Boeing used to be the reliable partner for Africa. More recently, I couldn’t even get a meeting with a junior salesperson at Boeing when I was COO of Africa World Airlines once they knew we were not in the market to order new planes. They even snubbed us from visiting their chalet at Paris Air Show. It was very much a transactional relationship rather than an actual relationship. Even when I operated B727 freighters in Uganda, it was a struggle to get them to respond to technical queries. Airbus in the meanwhile visited us at AWA multiple times before we even launched, provided us with traffic data, offered access to training programs, etc.. knowing that there was no sale coming for years at least. That kind of thing doesn’t go unnoticed in the long run.
(Boeing’s)is a very short sighted approach. The secondary customers of today are the primary customers of tomorrow. If Embraer had taken the position that Air Peace is just some small boy when they first took some E145s, would they have sold the E2s to them a few years later? Boeing is even losing their share of legacy big name customers. But they are in denial.”
How true this is still.remains to be Seen but the Truth of today is that we are Seeing More Airbus Planes flying around Africa today than there were 20 Years ago.