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Congo Airline Seeks Gulf Partner to Create Central African Hub

Equatorial Congo Airlines SA is seeking to team up with other airlines in Africa or the Persian Gulf in an effort to transform the Brazzaville airport into a Central African hub.

ECAir will start serving Dubai at the end of next month and is also studying Beirut among destinations in the Middle East, Director General Fatima Beyina-Moussa said. The company is in talks with Ethiopian and Kenyan airlines and will approach Etihad Airways PJSC for possible partnerships, she said.

“We’re not going anywhere if we’re going to do everything by ourselves,” Beyina-Moussa said at a press conference in Dubai today. “It would be a good thing to have partners, people with whom you can have interline agreements or code-shares.”

The African airline has already made inroads into western Europe via a leasing partnership with Geneva-based PrivatAir and maintenance cooperation with Lufthansa Technik that have helped elevate its planes to international standards, circumventing a European Commission ban on Congo’s airlines. Destinations include Brazzaville to Paris three times a week.

The airport in the capital city expanded by 15 percent last year to 1.1 million passengers and has capacity of 3.5 million, Youri Busaan, the CEO of Airports for Congo, said at the event.

Major Gap

“There’s a big gap, a void in Central Africa,” said ECAir Chairman Jean Louis Osso. “What Brazzaville intends to do is position itself to become the next big hub in Africa.”

ECAir plans to expand its fleet to seven aircraft from four this year, Mokoki Gilbert, Congo’s minister of transport and maritime, said at the Dubai event. Congo wants to capitalize on ECAir’s expansion plans and the refurbished Maya-Maya airport to turn Brazzaville into a Central African hub. Congo is adjacent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly called Zaire, that is far larger in population and area.

The airline will operate a Boeing Co. 757, a jet that’s no longer in production, on the Dubai route three times a week, fitted with 16 business-class seats and 132 in economy. The service is targeted at both business and leisure travel, with Dubai becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination for Africans, Beyina-Moussa said.

“You can be African but still be professional, work along international standards and be a good airline,” she said. “We are as safe as any other airline.”

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