As interest in African travel booms, airlines are taking note and offering more flights to more destinations than ever. Rather than flying into a major hub (say, Johannesburg or Cairo) and then connecting to local service, several companies now have flights to some unexpected regions. For example, German flag-carrier Lufthansa has just announced that as of November, they will be offering flights between Frankfurt and Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo.
We checked in with Don Bunkenburg, director of corporate business North America, to find out more.
“Lufthansa, in general, is looking at increasing service to Africa [along] with their partners,” he said. Okay, but why?
As in everything, he explained, it’s all about supply and demand…and Africa has plenty of supplies that are in great demand. Congo, he said, is “the sixth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa,” and also has many mines. Lufthansa offers service to man other oil-rich destinations—Houston, Calgary and others—so the Congo is a logical addition. “The increased demand for travel to Congo [is] driven by corporate business—mostly oil business. We have a very good presence in oil markets, and we also have an Oil-and-Energy club—a card that gives travelers involved in the oil business special perks—so we’re involved in that segment worldwide.”
In general, Bunkenburg said, Lufthansa is “seeing an increase in demand for travel to Africa.” That demand is not only in terms of growing businesses and economies, he added, but also in what he calls “ethnic business”—visiting friends and family and exploring heritage. Above all, he said, “with political stability increasing in parts of Africa, there is increased demand to go there…We wouldn’t fly somewhere if we didn’t see an increase in demand—and it must be mix of premium traffic and non-premium.”
“We have a specific strategic focus on growth in Africa,” he continued. Lufthansa already flies to 18 African destinations, and the company looking to grow in other areas. Among all of Lufthansa’s airlines (including Swiss, Austrian and Brussels), 35 African cities now have first-class airlift service.
Lufthansa has launched an initiative with Ethiopian Airlines to build a hub to help serve other African destinations, and the company is looking for partners to build more. “We already have some in North,” Bunkenburg said, “and now we’re looking for a sub-Saharan partner. We’re looking to grow; we’re looking for further opportunities. This is just one step. It will be driven by an increase in business activity, and also leisure activity. It has to be a healthy mix of passengers. We’re seeing more opportunities that we’re looking into.”