Interview: Frank Legré
What are the main constraints that airlines have to overcome in Africa?
FRANK LEGRÉ: The first major constraint concerns the cost of operating on the whole continent, which is eventually transferred to the price of tickets, a fact that can sometimes be hard for customers to understand. Other factors, such as the costs associated with fuel, ground-handling companies, equipment accommodation – which is significantly higher than in Europe – and certain safety measures, can also sometimes be considered constraints. Secondly, geopolitical and health crises can have a considerable negative impact on the volume of traffic, a fact that directly translates into an increase in costs for all airlines. Air France has always considered Africa a long-term partner and strives to ensure continuity in its service, independent of external factors, as long as safety and security requirements are met.
What impact will the expected increase in air traffic have on current infrastructure capacities?
LEGRÉ: The forecast for growth in most African countries is around 6% on average, and the increase in air traffic from and to Africa is expected to follow the same trend. Furthermore, over the last few years Air France flights to and from Africa have increased gradually at an average rate of 4-5% a year. As for 2014, it is time to consolidate our position in the market. When traffic experiences such dramatic growth, infrastructure is undoubtedly forced to keep up, both in terms of quality and quantity. Many African countries have understood this need and are carrying out projects such as new terminals or airports. Airlines will obviously take advantage of modern, safe and comfortable infrastructure.
What is the most efficient strategy for getting a return on investment in regional routes?
LEGRÉ: We support certain regional airline companies, such as Air Côte d’Ivoire, as we believe it is indispensable for intra-African transport companies to meet the international standards of the best foreign players. For the moment, regional African airlines do not have the required structure to achieve long-term economic balance. This is why Air France’s strategy, for instance, seeks to create operational synergies in terms of network, fleet or loyalty programmes among West and Central African firms.
What role does the aviation industry play in improving the quality of human resources?
LEGRÉ: If we take into account the transport sector, and more specifically the airline industry, we can firmly state that it has always contributed to the economic and social development of a country. Thanks to the large international networks airlines establish, aviation firms are capable of providing their host countries with extensive assistance not only in terms of economic, technological and logistical value, but also in terms of stimulating alternative sectors such as tourism or trade.
Given the importance of following international standards on safety and security, airlines obviously have the responsibility to contract highly qualified employees, which means that independent of the country or whether we are dealing with engineering or service-oriented jobs, employees must all be trained in accordance with the same high standards. As a result, training is very important.
We contribute to the transfer of expertise through our consulting and advisory body, and training programmes held at Bamako by the Institut Africain de Métiers de l’Aérien, of which we are one of the cofounders. These kinds of initiatives offer ground-handling companies, travel agencies, airports, freight forwarders and airlines a wide range of useful basic training initiatives. Since 2007 approximately 1200 people have been trained each year, and in 2014/15 new training programmes will be offered in partnership with Air France’s catering subsidiary Servair.
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