Air Senegal Plans To Fly To The US

Air Senegal Plans To Fly To The US

15

Air Senegal has just requested permission with authorities to launch flights to the United States… with a catch.

Air Senegal’s plans to fly from Dakar to the US

Air Senegal has just applied with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to request permission to operate nonstop flights between Senegal and the United States. The airline anticipates launching this service around September 2021.

Air Senegal is making a pretty standard request to be able to operate scheduled and/or charter flights carrying passengers and/or cargo between all points in Senegal and all points in the United States. There’s one added wrinkle here — Air Senegal plans to operate this flight on a wet lease basis with a foreign or US air carrier. We’ll talk more about that in a bit, because it’s not quite what it sounds like.

This is the first time that Air Senegal would fly to the United States. It is worth noting that back in 2019, Senegal’s Minister of Tourism and Air Transport announced that Air Senegal planned to fly between Dakar and Washington within the next six months, though that never came to fruition.

Now that permission is officially being requested, it’s more likely that this might actually happen.

While the DOT filing doesn’t mention in which market the airline plans to offer service, Dakar to Washington does seem like the most likely route:

  • There’s a big Senegalese population in Washington
  • South African Airways used to fly between Dakar and Washington, but ended that service in 2019

The Washington to Dakar flight would cover a distance of around 4,000 miles, so flights between the US and Africa don’t get much shorter than that (though there are some flights to Northern Africa that are even shorter).

Air Senegal will most likely fly to Washington Dulles

The basics of Air Senegal

Air Senegal was technically founded in 2016, as it was the successor of Senegal Airlines, which ceased operations in that year. The airline is growing nicely and with a modern fleet, as it has two A330-900neos, two ATR-72s, and four A320-family aircraft. On top of that, Air Senegal has eight A220s on order.

I’d sure love to fly Air Senegal’s A330-900neo. Cool looking plane, eh?

Air Senegal A330-900neo business class


Air Senegal A330-900neo economy class

Air Senegal’s wet lease technicality

With Air Senegal having planes clearly capable of operating a US route, why is Air Senegal explicitly stating that it will operate the flight on a wet lease basis? For those of you not familiar with a wet lease, this means that an airline is leasing a plane and crew from another airline.

Well, in this case Air Senegal would presumably use one of its A330-900neos, as this is all about a technicality:

  • Senegal doesn’t have a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category 1 safety rating, meaning Senegal-registered aircraft can’t operate flights to the US
  • One of Air Senegal’s A330-900neos has the registration code 9H-SZN, so the plane is technically registered in Malta to wet lease operator Hi Fly Malta
  • In other words, even though the plane is in the Air Senegal livery and mostly has an Air Senegal crew, it’s technically registered in Malta and being wet leased by Air Senegal, in order to circumvent these restrictions

I think it’s safe to say that Air Senegal intends to use its A330-900neo for this service, despite the unusual registration.

Air Senegal A330-900neo exterior

Can Air Senegal fly to the US profitably?

I think Air Senegal is in a similar situation to so many other government-owned airlines that try to launch flights to the US:

  • South African Airways couldn’t make the route lucrative enough, even with just 2x weekly flights, and even though the airline is in the Star Alliance, with Washington Dulles being a hub
  • At the same time, maybe Air Senegal has more loyalty among the local community, given that it’s the national carrier
  • Air Senegal is government owned, so the airline might not even be focused on turning profits on the route, but rather sees bigger value in having a link between the two capitals
  • Delta has historically flown 2x weekly between New York and Dakar, so there is some demand for nonstop flights between the US and Dakar; at the same time, even with United’s recent Africa expansion out of Washington, Dakar wasn’t one of the destinations to get service
  • If Air Senegal can create a big enough route network within West Africa, perhaps the flight could do well with connecting traffic

RwandAir is another African airline that recently requested permission to operate US flights. Air Senegal has the advantage of having a significantly shorter flight and a bigger community in the US, while RwandAir has the benefit of having more high-end tourism demand.

Bottom line

Air Senegal has filed with the US DOT to request permission to operate flights between Senegal and the US as of September 2021. The airline hasn’t officially stated the planned route or frequencies, though I think Washington is the most likely destination, and I wouldn’t expect service to be more than a few days per week.

The airline is only able to request this service based on a technicality — Senegal doesn’t have a Category 1 FAA safety rating, so this will be a “wet lease” service, in the sense that Air Senegal has a plane registered in Malta.

The government has been talking about this route for quite a while, so I’ll be curious to see if Air Senegal launches service this time around. I’d sure love to fly with the airline!

What do you think — will Air Senegal follow through with US service?

Conversations (15)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. MG Guest

    Sineta George,

    Where was FEDUP racist in this remark?

    Fed UP says:
    February 16, 2021 at 8:15 am
    Air Senegal is flying to the US, but who would want to fly them ?

    He\she is entited an opinion just as you are; being no more accurate or incorrect as your thoughts. Just because you disagree with what was said doesnt automatically make it racist....

    I wish A\S luck and hope the competition is good for a travel revival.

  2. Sineta George Guest

    Fed Up - again, SERIOUSLY? John thanks for stepping up; what a racist comment. Have you SEEN the planes that Air Senegal purchased and are already using for Dakar/France/EU? Obviously not.

    Just plain ignorant, on all levels.

  3. John Guest

    @Fed UP, do you know anything about Air Senegal? Dakar is one of the more interesting, welcoming Franophone West African cities along with Abidjan. Senegal is a safe, relatively democratic country for the most part. It doesn't have the traditional pull of more scenic destinations in East and Southern Africa and the Senegalese Government is generally fairly competent. Are you just assuming African airline=terrible?

  4. Fed UP Guest

    Air Senegal is flying to the US, but who would want to fly them ?

  5. Samo Guest

    I'm not sure the loophole is a loophole. Operations of a plane registered in Malta are subject to regulatory oversight of EASA and Maltese authorities.

    This seems perfectly legit to me - the US authorities don't trust Senegal's regulators, so the airline will use a plane registered elsewhere, which will therefore be subject to higher standards imposed by EASA. I don't see anything wrong with that.

  6. Sean M. Guest

    @TO - Actually they used to fly it daily JFK-DKR on the 767-300ER back in the early days (2006) when the station first opened and the flight carried on to Johannesburg.

  7. TO Guest

    Starting this spring, Delta is actually going daily JFK-DSS on the 763ER..something it had never attempted even before the pandemic!

  8. shoeguy Guest

    "The Washington to Dakar flight would cover a distance of around 4,000 miles, so flights between the US and Africa don’t get much shorter than that (though there are some flights to Northern Africa that are even shorter)."

    JFK to CMN is 3,609 miles making it the shortest route from the US to Africa. IAD to DKR is about 3,900 miles.

  9. Sineta George Guest

    Marty why do you just assume Air Senegal has lower safety standards than in the US? How many US planes departing from US soil have crashed causing fatalities? How many planes have crashed or around Senegal resulting in fatalities? I'll help you out: 1 ONE - there was a mechanical problem (manufacturer defect) over the ocean and it wasn't a Senegalese plane.

    Glass houses and all that......

  10. Jaymanlb Guest

    Dakar was the primary transatlantic West African destination from the US for decades from the mid-1960s through the 1990's. Air Afrique, the pan-African multi-national airline flew the JFK-Dakar route as one of it's premier international services. Initially, the flight was in "cooperation" with Pan Am, and later it operated its own DC-8s and DC-10s on this service. Dakar was used as a hub for onward services throughout west and central Africa.

  11. Mark J Guest

    The Senegalese government has a policy called the Plan Senegal Emergent, and Air Senegal's development of a massive transit hub in Dakar is part of that strategy. Also, Delta upgauged Dakar to a 767 from a 757 and is now I think at 5x a week, so there must be growth potential there. Additionally, a nonstop has advantages during the pandemic because otherwise you have to transit Europe. Delta is charging 1100 RT on the...

    The Senegalese government has a policy called the Plan Senegal Emergent, and Air Senegal's development of a massive transit hub in Dakar is part of that strategy. Also, Delta upgauged Dakar to a 767 from a 757 and is now I think at 5x a week, so there must be growth potential there. Additionally, a nonstop has advantages during the pandemic because otherwise you have to transit Europe. Delta is charging 1100 RT on the route when TAP has it below 400, and still sustainable. Delta was at 2x in July, now up to 5x.

    Also, RE the wet lease, Air Astana and Uzbekistan Airways both do this to get around EU airspace regulation by registering their planes in Aruba. It's an old trick that puts the planes under the maintenance rules of the EU. HY flies to JFK so I imagine the FAA is fine with it.

  12. Alpha Golf Guest

    Under the wet lease, crew will be Hi Fly Malta, not Air Senegal.

  13. Marty Guest

    So any airline that doesn't meet US safety requirements can simply wet lease and get around the restructions?

  14. Brian L. Guest

    Will the US government allow this, given the wet lease technicality? Should be a fairly easy loophole to close if they want to.

  15. jfhscott Guest

    This will work only if they use it to feed West Africa. I suspect that SAA moved the Dakar stop to Accra because there are meaningful ties between DC and Ghana. Senegal not so much, but there could be ample government travel to other locations Air Senegal serves.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

MG Guest

Sineta George, Where was FEDUP racist in this remark? Fed UP says: February 16, 2021 at 8:15 am Air Senegal is flying to the US, but who would want to fly them ? He\she is entited an opinion just as you are; being no more accurate or incorrect as your thoughts. Just because you disagree with what was said doesnt automatically make it racist.... I wish A\S luck and hope the competition is good for a travel revival.

0
Sineta George Guest

Fed Up - again, SERIOUSLY? John thanks for stepping up; what a racist comment. Have you SEEN the planes that Air Senegal purchased and are already using for Dakar/France/EU? Obviously not. Just plain ignorant, on all levels.

0
John Guest

@Fed UP, do you know anything about Air Senegal? Dakar is one of the more interesting, welcoming Franophone West African cities along with Abidjan. Senegal is a safe, relatively democratic country for the most part. It doesn't have the traditional pull of more scenic destinations in East and Southern Africa and the Senegalese Government is generally fairly competent. Are you just assuming African airline=terrible?

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,788,713 Miles Traveled

27,627,500 Words Written

32,315 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT