The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had projected that the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), simply known as Open Sky for Africa will enhance air connectivity in the continent, bridge the gaps where travelers would have to travel to Europe while connecting flights from one African destination to another.
IATA also said SAATM would stimulate trade and tourism among African nations and would generate estimated $1.3 billion in additional spending. These projections were made in January 2018, when the treaty was unveiled with sensitisation workshop in Lagos, Nigeria.
Today, that forecast is beginning to unfold as reality. In December 2019, Air Senegal flagged off its direct flight to Accra, Ghana from Dakar; TAAG Angola Airlines marked its inaugural direct flight to Lagos from Luanda and the most audacious was the inaugural flight of Cabo Verde Airlines (formerly Cape Verde).
What is audacious about Cabo Verde Airlines is that it does not just want to airlift travelers from Lagos to its hub in Sal, with its rich tourism sites; it wants to take Nigerian travelers farther to other destinations in Europe, the United States and Americas in one full bouquet.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko, had predicted after studying Cabo Verde’s operational strategies, that the airline would dominate West and Central Africa in few years. His assuredness was derived from his wealth of experience and the fact that the beauty of Cape Verde Island would prove irresistible to Nigerian travelers who would now be connecting their flights to savour the beauties of that destination.
Cape Verde or Cabo Verde is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. It forms part of the Macaronesia ecoregion, along with the Azores, Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Savage Isles. Cabo Verde Airlines has its operational base in the Island of Sal, one of the 10 Islands that formed the country, while its capital is Praia.
The airline had its flight on December 11, 2019, after a rigorous marketing campaign, which sensitised Nigerians about the coming of the Island of Sal based carrier.
The country manager of Cabo Verde Airlines, Tariye Orianzi, said the airline wants to benefit from Cabo Verde’s privileged location, which is right between the Americas, Africa and Europe, to create powerful connection options within the shortest possible time. She said the airline is looking at the Icelandair model, which transformed Iceland, a small country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, into a major gateway.
Orianzi said the major advantage the airline has is its geographical location – where other airlines spend over 20 hours flying from Nigeria to the US for instance, Cabo Air will take 13 hours 35 minutes.
“From Cabo Verde it is easy to connect four continents (Africa, Europe, South America and North America) in the shortest possible time when compared to other airlines. Further, Cabo Verde Airlines stopover option allows passengers to stay in Cabo Verde (which is a huge tourist destination) up to seven days with no additional costs on airline tickets, before flying to their destination.
“This is also a huge advantage. Aside from Lagos, we recently launched new routes, namely Washington D. C. and Porto Alegre, in Brazil, widening the options for our passengers. From Lagos to Washington D. C. on Cabo Verde Airlines, one will take 13 hours 25mins including the layover in Sal, Cabo Verde. The next shortest duration by other airlines is 20h 25mins.”
Many Nigerians, who attended the airline’s inaugural flight dinner at the Lagos airport, told THISDAY that the airline would do well because it is pragmatic and earthy and has also studied the attitude of the Nigerian traveller who wants to be recognised and respected.
Orianzi said Cabo Verde plans to interline with domestic operators. That would obviously warm the airline to the heart of domestic carriers and this would be a new beginning, since the failed romance between Delta Air Lines and the defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways.
“We need to partner with local airlines to feed traffic from the other major cities such as Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano,” Orianzi said.
The President of Saber West Africa and also the President of Aviation Round Table (ART), a think-tank body in the industry, Dr Gabrial Gbenga Olowo, said the advantage of taking that Cabo Verde route was that it links up immediately to South America and the southern parts of the USA, remarking that this would stimulate a lot of commercial payload between Nigeria and those continents.
He added that travelling to those places has been very cumbersome in the past.
Cabo Verde success would also be a good incentive to other African carriers, including Nigerian airlines that SAATM would provide a springboard for success; as predicted by IATA.