Why Asky Airlines is Dominating West and Central Africa’s Airspace

Chinedu Eze

Togo is a small country in West Africa with a population of 8.849 million (2022) with area equal to 21, 925 square miles, but in Togo thrives an airline that is West Africa’s best performing carrier, Asky Airlines.

With 14 aircraft in its fleet, Asky Airlines operates to 28 destinations in 26 countries in West and Central Africa with 214 flights a week with average of 22000 passengers airlifted every week, operating from its hub in Lome.

It all started from the vision one man, Gervais Koffi G. Djondo who many years ago approached Ethiopian Airlines for partnership to whelp a regional carrier, which started small and it is now growing into a dominant regional carrier with strong tap root in professionalism and standards.

Djondo arrived Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Capital circa 2008 with an interpreter, during Air Finance for Africa Conference organized by Nick Fadugba the CEO of African Aviation Services.  Djondo made his desire clear: he requested for technical partnership for the airline he wanted to establish in Lome, Togo. That partnership at the behest of Togo is one of the best examples of collaborations in the history of airline business in Africa.

Asky Airlines was created by regional institutions, including the West African Development Bank (BOAD), the Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), and the ECOBANK Group, in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. 

ASKY Airlines began operations in January 2010 and is based at Lomé-Tokoin Airport in Togo. The airline flies to destinations in West and Central Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, and Cameroon. Asky’s fleet includes Boeing 737-700s, Boeing 737-800s  and B737 MAX.

Having fully entrenched itself in West and Central Africa, the airline is now extending its services beyond the two sub-regions with a new destination in East Africa, the hub of tourism destination in the sub-region, Kenya and also South Africa. Last week the airline in collaboration with its Kenyan partner, Jumbo Jet, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways organized familiarization tour of Kenya to strengthen the route and also chart a new market between East and West Africa.

Bu it is good to go back to the vision of those who established Asky. Togo being a small country does not have flight service for domestic destinations. Asky operations is interstate, but in that small country now thrives a successful carrier that is connecting people from place to place. What will surprise one is how the airline created air traffic in a place where there was none and without the vision no one can imagine the possibility of having an airline in a country with zero domestic flight operations.

But the throng of passengers from different countries in West and Central Africa to the hub in Togo shows how dreams cam metamorphose to reality.

Travel expert and the organizer of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ambassador Ikechi Uko told THISDAY in exclusive interview that Asky was an airline that was set up from the beginning with such a plan to be a Pan-African airline. And ASKY means African sky.

“So, the vision is there; it is captured in the name; it is captured in everything they do. They fly to 28 destinations in 26 countries with only 14 aircraft. So from the beginning, that vision is very clear that we want to be the king of West and Central Africa. We want to be the major airline in West and Central Africa. And within five years, they achieved that. Now they are now connecting East Africa. They are connecting South Africa. They are now going to go to France. But they stayed, more than 10 years consolidating on West and Central Africa. Then they started South Africa maybe by the 10th year. Then they started Nairobi by the 10th year. And they are now saying, OK, France. Then after that, we will connect North Africa. So they have spent 10 years consolidating their operations in West and Central Africa. And today they connect almost every capital city in West Africa. 

Asky has become such strong airline that it is now partnering with other airlines to further expand its operations. In order to develop strong market in Kenya and subsequently East Africa, Asky decided to partner with Jumbo Jet and one of the biggest travel agencies in Africa, Satguru to deepen its presence in Kenya.

Jambojet is just 10 years old but it controls 52% of Kenya’s Domestic Market. It Operates eight aircraft, all Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. It flies to 11 routes in Kenya and about to start flight service to Zanzibar. It has two hubs in Nairobi and Mombassa. It carried over 1.4m passengers last year bringing it’s total passenger uplift since 2014 to over 7.4 million.  Its partnership with Asky is to reach more of Kenya from West and Central Africa.

“Jambojet, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways is just the perfect  partner to make that happen,” said Ambassador Uko.

Explaining why Asky Airlines will dominate West and Central Africa for a long time, just as it forays beyond the sub-regions to other parts of Africa and Europe, Ambassador Uko noted that the possibly greatest rivals of Asky Airlines in the sub-region are Nigerian airlines, but from all indications, Nigerian carriers are not as focused as the Lome-based airline because their focus is different.

“I don’t see any Nigerian airline that has a vision to dominate West Africa. I don’t see a plan by any Nigerian airline to be the major player in West Africa. I have not been told, I have not seen any. The ones that are already flying, the way they have aligned their business is beyond West Africa. So until one comes that plans to be the king of West Africa, then we can start having discussions. We can’t be the hub, we are not the hub, there is no plan by any Nigerian airliner that I know to fly to every capital in West Africa. Part of what I knew Ethiopian Airlines did was when any African country that becomes independent, they try to connect a flight to those ones. So there was a long-term plan to be the masters of Africa and now it has benefited them. So there is no plan, I know, by any airline in Nigeria, maybe they have internally, but it has never been communicated publicly for outsiders like me to know that there is a plan to be the masters of West Africa,” Uko said.

This indicates that by its business strategy and focus, Asky Airlines will continue to dominate the West and Central Africa. This fits in with the two major plans of Africa to connect the countries on the continent and do business with one another, which are the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

By eliminating barriers through air connection, Asky Airlines is eliminating barriers to trade and boosting intra continental commerce by connecting people and places, especially in West and Central Africa.

Boeing’s Vice-President of Commercial Sales and Marketing for Africa, Anbessie Yitbarek, recently observed that the biggest hindrance in Africa airspace is interconnectivity, Asky Airlines is breaking those barriers.

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