The launch of the B747-400 took place at Ostend International Airport in Belgium. The freighter will initially operate twice weekly on a triangle route from Ostend, southbound to Lagos, Nigeria, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and will then fly to Nairobi, where it will uplift perishables bound for London Manston and Ostend.
"We are very excited with this new venture with our long-term partner and friend Astral Aviation,” ANA Aviation chairman Andy Leslie said. “The Boeing 747 factory-built freighter with nose-loading capability means we can offer payloads of up to 120,000 kilos, as well as accepting long and oversize pieces, giving a new dimension to our business to and from Africa as well as the availability of ad-hoc charter capacity on a worldwide basis."
Astral CEO Sanjeev Gadhia said ANA Aviation Services, UK and its counterpart, Network Airline Services, have been its GSA in Europe, the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, India and South Africa, for the past 10 years. The B747 venture enables Astral to market perishable exports from Kenya to Europe, which is growing rapidly and dominated entirely by foreign carriers.
In addition, the B747F will provide inbound capacity for Astral’s shipments in Europe and the U.S. for onward connectivity to its expanding intra-African network comprising of Juba, South Sudan; Pemba, Mozambique; Mogadishu, Somalia; Dar-es-salaam, Mwanza and Mtwara in Tanzania; Entebbe, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda.
Despite air cargo’s global slowdown and excess capacity creating low growth for the industry, ANA and Astral remain bullish on the trade between Europe and Africa.
The increase in demand for oil and gas equipment in West Africa combined with the growth in perishables traffic from East Africa to Europe will be the primary focus for the partners.