By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This article was published in the Autumn 1998 edition of the London-based AIMET magazine where I worked as Editor in Chief and Managing Editor from 1996 to 2000. I did the article after traveling on one of Air Gabon’s flights intercontinental flights.
This is a significant year for Air Gabon. The national carrier is 21 and in the words of its managing director, Commandant Rene Morvan, it is growing from strength to strength. Commandant Morvan said: “Now at the peak of its strength, Air Gabon is determined to join the league of major international airlines and to establish itself on the world market. Already, on the African continent, Air Gabon enjoys a good reputation and is on its way to the top, thanks to its legendary reliability and constant efforts to improve the quality of service.”
This writer flew with the company from Paris to Libreville and found the service to be first class. Crew members were professional and courteous, timing was spot on and entertainment was unforgettable. Air Gabon is capitalizing on its good record. For instance, it now operates a Libreville-Paris-London weekly flight, which means that passengers in London no longer need to travel to Paris before boarding the aircraft. Air Gabon recently purchased a Boeing 767-200ER which is now being used on the long distance haul. The company’s magazine, M`bolo, said of the new aircraft: “It will enable Air Gabon to increase and reinforce its existing flights within Africa, fly to new destinations on the continent as well as transport more passengers and freight.” Other aircraft the company has acquired include a Boeing 727-0228, a Boeing 747-2Q2B used mainly for passenger and freight traffic between Europe and Gabon, a Boeing 737-200C and FOKKER F28 for domestic use.
With one of the most developed air systems in Africa, Air Gabon handles some fifty per cent of the country’s traffic to France and about seventy per cent of domestic flights. In 1995 for example, the carrier transported a total of 412,131 passengers, a figure which represented a drip from the previous year’s figure. Turnover stood at CFA57.2 bn, which was a rise of 0.5 per cent on the previous year’s CFA56.9 bn. The load factor was 50 per cent in 1994 and 53 per cent in 1995.
Devaluation of the CFA franc and the generally unfavorable economic climate in 1994 led to a rise in costs for the airline. However, the following year, costs were cut by eleven per cent, thanks to a restructuring plan that was put in place. This involved fleet harmonization, an increase in domestic tariffs and a reduction in the workforce.
Air Gabon was set up in 1977, after government decided to expand its air transport industrial activities. It is 80 per cent owned by the state and twenty per cent by the French Société Française de Participation à Air Gabon (SOFPAG). After what may be described as a brilliant first twenty one years, Air Gabon will undoubtedly have to make the next twenty years even more resounding.