Airline management: Getting it right in Africa

Nov 1, 2007

Addressing AFRICAN AVIATION Magazine’s First African Aviation Finance & Leasing Conference held in Cairo, Egypt, 16 years ago, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of US-based International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), provided a crystal clear vision of how African airlines can succeed and prosper.

Pointing to the lack of traditional funding sources available to most African airlines on economical terms, to finance their expansion and fleet modernisation, the internationally renowned aviation entrepreneur politely pointed out that the lack of airline management stability and frequent bureaucratic/governmental interference in the commercial affairs of airlines on this continent had magnified the difficulties they faced in the financing arena. 

“The lack of airline management proficiency and continuity has reached critical proportions. Too often, Government appointees have no airline transportation management experience or aviation know-how to deal with airline organisational decision-making, control and direction. Another negative consequence is the harm to the airline’s credibility and reputation, as well as staff morale. Many African airlines are also overloaded with excess and inefficient employees, because airlines are being asked to fulfil social as well as business goals.” 

Steven Udvar-Hazy advocated increased emphasis and resources on airline staff training, airline automation and the use of state-of-the-art yield management tools, the need to offer punctual, reliable schedules and customer orientation in in-flight and ground services, co-operative ventures among African airlines in several important operational areas, such as maintenance and engineering, and spare parts provisioning, etc. To achieve their goals, African airlines would need to sharpen their management skills, improve their productivity and competitive positions, while at the same time strengthening regional co-operation. 

Sixteen years later, the words of Steven Udvar-Hazy still ring true. Certainly, some things have improved in African aviation, but there is still much to be achieved. As Steve said: “Today, Africa, probably more than any other continent, needs aviation and a strong airline industry to grow and prosper.” That goal is what drives us at AFRICAN AVIATION. 


– By Nick Fadugba
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