By Lamin Cham
With the advent of the new Gambia, opening up economic and business opportunities, the country will soon boast of a home-based airline which is aspiring to make Banjul a hub in the region
Africaada Airways, a subsidiary of Royal Africa Holdings, the airline will be an Africa-focused Gambian Flag Carrier, which will provide Gambia with her truly self-owned commercial maiden flight soon.
Prince Ebrahim Sanyang, the chairman of the Royal Africa Holdings told The Standard in an exclusive interview that if everything works according to plan, Africaada Airways will start operation soon. ”We had missed two planned inauguration dates largely owing to delay in our application and approval process.”
Asked what led to the delay, Prince Sanyang said the company suffered needless frustrations and communication bottlenecks throughout their application with the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), basically a vicious cycle of stop and go to date.
He is however very positive on what the future holds for them. “In this New Gambia, no one can frustrate any of our investment, it’s our constitutional right to legally operate and own an Airline in The Gambia, an investment that should be free from any bottleneck. That is exactly what New Gambia will do for Africaada Airways”, he said.
Asked what steps they intend to take to address their teething approval delay with GCCA. He said: “In coming days, we will call for an urgent multi-stakeholders formal meeting, including GCAA, the line Ministry charged with GCAA, and all other relevant stakeholders to table the matter, discuss and agree concrete road map of compliance that will ensure check and balances for an expedited application process.”
Prince Sanyang lamented on the irony of certain registered airlines in this country who haven’t delivered a single operational aircraft whilst Africaada Airways has standby Aircraft in place.
“As a result Gambians have to rely on unreliable regional competitors, who are charging exorbitant air fares and often with very old and uncomfortable aircraft,” he lamented.
Asked on the state of their own aircraft, Prince Sanyang said: “As it stands now, all our aircraft are fully licensed and approved by the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) couple with EU state Civil Aviation Approval to fly and serve in the European Union (EU). “With our state-of-the-art generation aircraft, we can boast of same if not better and safety and quality service as many of our potential competitors registered in the Gambia or even in the sub region,” he said.
Asked on whether they appealed to the GCAA to expedite their application, Sanyang confirmed in positive but was quick to say “bringing such a huge investment as new national flag carrier is not in anyway asking for special favours or bending rules from the regulator. All what we are asking for is a regulatory authority that is cooperative, fair and supportive. After all, the GCAA is a public office that belongs to all Gambians”
Dilating further on the investment, Prince Sanyang said: “In strengthening our long term presence, we will be the first airline in Gambia to invest into a multi-million dollar added value aviation infrastructural project.”
The said added value infrastructural investment is the establishment of AFRICAADA Airport Village. He delved further by saying; “This component of our investment will comprise Africaada Passenger Terminals (including our own new separate VIP, Business and first class passengers), Duty Free Shopping Malls and Ancillary Retail Mega space, Restaurants, Hotel, Entertainment, Inflight Catering facilities as well as Offices, Advanced Logistics and added value facilities.”
He continued: “Therefore Africaada Airport Village will be a great value- added infrastructure investment that will strengthen our operational capacity, passenger experience and attract more traffic thereby making Banjul an airport of choice on the continent.”
Prince Sanyang called on all Gambians to support Africaada Airways, and posited that it is an Airline that belongs to us all, saying Africaada as “Africa Ada” means “African Culture”.