After months of uncertainty over whether or not one of Nigeria’s, and perhaps African, airlines that promises so much would end up on paper, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) today granted start-up Green Africa Air Operators Certificate (AOC). This clears the way for the carrier to begin services. The carrier today indicated its readiness to start scheduled flight operations on August 12, 2021.
Following the successful completion of all five phases of the AOC application process, Nigeria’s aviation regulatory body presented it with AOC by its Director-General, Capt. Musa Nuhu at the NCAA headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. With this certificate, Green Africa is able to commence operations in accordance with its initial route network unveiled earlier in June.
Speaking on the issuance of the AOC to Green Africa, Capt. Musa Nuhu said, “We at the NCAA are impressed with Green Africa’s effort and commitment to safely connect many more people across the country and we look forward to the positive contribution that the new airline will bring to the Nigerian aviation industry.”
Commenting on the major milestone for Green Africa, Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Babawande Afolabi noted, “This is a watershed moment in our journey to use the power of air travel to create a better future. Thanks to the NCAA, the gTeam, our investors and other stakeholders, Green Africa is now set to start serving customers.”
Green signs MoU with Airbus for 50 planes
Green Africa, five years ago, took the aviation sector by storm when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus for 50 A220-300 aircraft, one of the major orders to be placed globally for the A220 program and the largest ever from the African continent.
The A220 is purpose-built for the 100-150 seat market; it delivers unbeatable fuel efficiency and wide-body passenger comfort in a single-aisle aircraft. The A220 brings together state-of-the-art aerodynamics, advanced materials, and Pratt & Whitney’s latest-generation PW1500G geared turbofan engines to offer at least 20 percent lower fuel burn per seat compared to previous generation aircraft, along with significantly lower emissions and a reduced noise footprint.
The announcement surprised the sector as Nigerians and West Africa looked forward to an airline that would reshape the air transport system in the West African sub-region. At an Airbus media summit in Toulouse, France in February 2020, the hierarchy of Airbus expressed optimism about the deal. The deal appeared to have faded following a change of strategy by the carrier to jettison Airbus aircraft for the fuel-efficient, less expensive to operate ATR 72.
Change of strategy
A source in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) who is familiar with some of the obstacles the carriers faced told AirInsight, under the condition of anonymity, said the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the aviation industry may have led to strategy change by the airline; a situation that that may have made the promoters jettison A220s for ATR-72.
Green has received its third ATR 72-600s from the upcoming lessor ACIA. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic-induced market disruption, the airline laid out a roadmap for market entry by deploying ACIA’s ATR aircraft to deliver affordable, short-haul connectivity between Nigerian cities to stimulate the region’s economic development and business activity.
The long road to acquiring a flight certificate
The initial plan by the carrier to begin services did not go as planned following grey areas it needed to sort out with the NCAA. This put a lot of people and the promoters of the airlines on edge despite assurances that they would overcome the final hurdles to getting an AOC.
The company continued to scale up manpower required for the start of operations and some of the newly recruited cabin crew members were recently sent for type-rating training. According to a source at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) who is aware of the plans of the new carrier, mentioned that “the airline is serious; they mean business and could start soon, as they are close to acquiring the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC)”.
In October 2020, Green Africa formed a strategic partnership with First City Monument Bank (FCMB), that yielded $31 million in a combination of standby letter of credit and rolling working capital.
Green Africa is anchored by a group of senior industry leaders led by Tom Horton, former Chairman & CEO of American Airlines, Wale Adeosun, Founder & CEO of Kuramo Capital, William Shaw, CEO of Interjet, Virasb Vahidi, former CCO of American Airlines, and Gbenga Oyebode, Founder & Chairman of Aluko & Oyebode.