With a population of under two million people and covering an area around the same size as Qatar, Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa. It is almost completely surrounded by Senegal apart from a short stretch of coast on the Atlantic Ocean. This week saw the launch of a national airline, Gambia Bird, which has started operations with a single A319 to a handful of destinations in Africa and Europe. The capital, Banjul, is also home of the country’s busiest airport, Yundum International, which for much of the past decade has handled around 300,000 annual passengers. There are non-stop scheduled services to five other African countries, as well as three European countries.
|Belgium||Brussels (BRU)||Brussels Airlines (4)|
|Guinea||Conakry (CKY)||Royal Air Maroc (1)|
|Guinea-Bissau||Bissau (OXB)||Royal Air Maroc (1)|
|Morocco||Casablanca (CMN)||Royal Air Maroc (3)|
|Senegal||Dakar (DKR)||Arik Air (3), Senegal Airlines (5)|
|Sierra Leone||Freetown (FNA)||Arik Air (3)|
|Spain||Madrid (MAD)||Air Europa (1)|
|United Kingdom||Manchester (MAN)||Monarch Charter (1)|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 August 2012
WF: Weekly Frequency
There are also charter flights to Banjul from the UK, Amsterdam and Scandinavia operated by the likes of Condor, Thomas Cook and Transavia.com.
Gambia Bird launches flights with help from Germania
With the assistance of Germania, the German airline with focus on leisure and ethnic traffic, Gambia Bird has finally begun operations from Banjul with a single 144-seat A319. A second aircraft will join the fleet in December. At present, bookings can only be made through travel agents, but a website booking tool is promised for later in the year. According to the airline’s website, the initial network will consist of flights from Banjul to Accra (two flights per week), Barcelona (one), Conakry (one), Dakar (three), Freetown (two), London Gatwick (one), and Monrovia (two), as well as service between Accra and Monrovia, Conakry and Dakar, Conakry and Freetown, and Freetown and London Gatwick.
Karsten Balke, Chief Commercial Officer, explains the company’s vision: “The origins of Gambia Bird stem from leveraging our business model which is founded in highly successful charter operations, to create a scheduled airline. We utilise a lean structure that outsources specialist support functions, such as technical and engineering, to expert providers and this enables us to get on with what we do best – running an airline. Market intelligence told us that economically the West African region is poised to grow at a phenomenal rate over the coming years and, whilst we acknowledge there are significant challenges within the region’s infrastructure to overcome, it is these very challenges that provide the springboard for a successful airline. We are not offering a low-cost airline. Our aim is to build a reputation for quality and reliability via our scheduled and punctual services with a choice of affordable ticket options. Importantly, we want to build an airline that embodies the wonderful warmth of the Gambian people, for at the end of the day it is that total exceptional experience that will make people want to fly with us again and again.”
Vueling announces flights for next summer
Among the 28 new destinations announced by Vueling that it intends to operate from Barcelona next summer is Banjul. Twice-weekly flights are scheduled to start on 3 April, making Vueling arguably the first LCC to serve Gambia.