According to Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, there were an estimated 420 business jets operating in the continent in 2012, and expected that the number would rise to over 600 by 2022.
While still being small compared to other continents, Africa’s private jet charter industry is one of many industries that are on a steady growth path.
Deloitte and Touche’s 2013 report on the rise of Africa’s middle class estimated that the African middle class will grow to 1.1 billion in 2060, making up 42 per cent of the population. Much of the continent’s development is now riding on its thriving middle class, and the private charter jet sector is no exception.
“The increasing demand for charter is within the African continents, as this is a growing enterprise for mining. Certain destinations are tricky when it comes to scheduled flights due to runway conditions [and other aspects], so chartering is more of an interest to the consumer at the moment,” Jenny Van Wyk, passenger sales manager for Africa at Chapman Freeborn, told CNBCAfrica.com.
“One of the many factors that are encouraging the desire to acquire private jets is, according to analysts, the growing frustration with the kind of services offered by commercial airlines,” Van Wyk explained.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), intra-Africa passenger numbers increased by 9.4 per cent year on year in January 2013, and continues to be spurred on by strong economic growth in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
While most African countries still have national carriers, with the exception of a few whose carriers have been replaced with other airlines, intercontinental and international flying is still relatively expensive for the everyman.
As more Africans begin to demand more facilities and options while flying, the wealthy few have begun to opt out of taking commercial flights and invest in private jet charter flights.
“The [commercial flight] services are generally poor, experts argue, making wealthy [Africans] opt to acquire their own jets to save the time that would, otherwise, have been lost waiting for flights,” Van Wyk explained.
Successful national carriers such as Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air continue to connect the continent with their continental and international routes. According to IATA’s air passenger market analysis for 2013, African airlines international air travel expanded by 5.5 per cent in 2013, but minimal compared to 7.5 per cent in 2012.
(WATCH VIDEO: Focus on Africa’s aviation industry – Part 1)
Other national carriers have however been struggling, such as Air Tanzania, which was disposed of in 2006 after four consecutive years of losses. RwandAir, Rwanda’s national carrier, has also been rumored to have sustained a loss-making path for some time despite still being in operation. National carriers treading fragile ground is nonetheless another opportunity for private flight charter services to expand their base.
The growth in private charter is however not limited to passengers, and extends to transporting aid, logistics and other precious cargo.
“This year may present a unique opportunity for jet manufacturers like Cessna, Gulfstream, Dassault and Bombardier, which have spent the last decade trying to build their Africa aviation business, particularly in Nigeria, to expand in one of the world’s fastest growing aviation market,” Van Wyk added.
(WATCH VIDEO: Outlook for Nigeria aviation sector)
“In fact, now that the country is gearing from elections next year, more politicians could join the growing list of jet owners. In the same vein, some other rich celebrities and spiritual leads are also in the race to belong to the elite league of jet owner in order to effectively oversee their growing flock.”
Travelling to disaster areas however poses a challenge for private jet charter service providers, and each region’s flying requirements and allowances vary. Chapman Freeborn however coordinates ad hoc and large-scale humanitarian relief flight operations for the United Nations, governments, international NGOs and other aid providers.
“I think when it comes to the more rural destinations, and then there are definite obstacles that we are faced with. Airports, handling, permits, and response times play a huge role in our day to day planning,” said Van Wyk.
“Often the most lives are saved in the immediate hours and days following a disaster. Major operations have included supporting the response to the Asian Tsunami, earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti, floods in Burma, and humanitarian crises in Darfur and East Africa.”
AFRICA’S FUTURE FLIGHT PLAN
As more Africans are able to afford private jet charter services, as well as commercial flights, Africa’s aeroplane space is set to become more populous and more diverse on-board facilities for those who can afford it.
(WATCH VIDEO: Focus on Africa’s aviation industry – Part 2)
“The growing class of super-rich [African] business moguls, bankers, preachers, politicians and oil magnates, who cannot compromise their comfort and time, now rush to acquire their own aircrafts,” said Van Wyk.
“In fact, now that [some African] countries are gearing for elections next year, more politicians could join the growing list of jet owners. Choosing the most convenient airport [and] travelling at times that suits your schedule. It’s all about supply and demand.”