I’m a huge fan of airline startups, as I find them fascinating to watch. Of course there are all kinds of airline startups. There are real airline startups, that are well funded and founded by experienced airline executives. And then there are… less real airline startups.
Green Africa Airways, a startup airline based in Lagos, Nigeria, has just placed an order for up to 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. This includes 50 firm aircraft orders, as well as 50 options.
The total deal carries a list price of $11.7 billion, which is the largest single aircraft order we’ve ever seen from Africa. That’s pretty remarkable, when you consider that this isn’t even an airline that’s flying yet.
Here’s what the founder & CEO of Green Africa Airways had to say:
“Today is a historic day for the Nigerian and African aviation industry. This landmark deal takes us much closer to our long-held dream of building a world-class airline that will unlock a new realm of positive possibilities for millions of customers. Broadly speaking, this deal is a bold symbol of the dynamism, resilience and soaring entrepreneurial drive of the next generation of Nigerians and Africans.”
The goal is for Green Africa Airways to be a “value airline” based in Lagos. The airline has already received its air transport license from the Nigerian government, and is in the process of getting their air operator’s certificate.
Now here’s the thing. When I hear of African startup airlines, I’m generally quite skeptical. Not just due to the number of “scam” startup airlines we hear of, but rather mainly because even if an airline has good intentions, there are so many barriers businesses face in Africa.
But what’s interesting is who is behind this airline. Some former American Airlines executives are involved in starting up this airline, including Tom Horton, former CEO of American Airlines, as well as Virasb Vahidi, former CCO of American Airlines. As Vahidi explains:
“Nigeria is uniquely positioned to be the home of the next major value airline. The strategic partnership with Boeing positions Green Africa Airways to expand and improve air travel for customers in Nigeria, and further strengthens the relationship between the United States, Nigeria and Africa.”
The plan is for the airline to first develop the Nigerian market, and then build a strong pan-African network.
Green Africa Airways sounds to me like Africa’s most ambitious airline startup ever. Ordering a minimum of 50 firm Boeing 737 MAX aircraft before even launching operations sure is a big commitment.
It sounds to me like this airline is fairly legitimate based on who is behind it. However, there are so many roadblocks and challenges to starting an airline, and I imagine that’s only amplified further when you’re dealing with the African aviation market.
What do you make of Green Africa Airways?