A new air operator, Korongo Airlines, will start operations from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Lubumbashi from April 16, linking previously cut off regions in Central Africa with Johannesburg, in South Africa, and Brussels, in Belgium.
CEO Christophe Allard told Engineering News Online that the most significant aspect of Korongo Airlines establishing its operating base in Lubumbashi is that it would in future be able to provide aircraft maintenance services to European Union standards in the heart of Africa.
“We have a 12 000 m2 piece of Belgium in Central Africa, thanks to our new hangar for servicing aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737. We also invested heavily in the underdeveloped airport infrastructure, to get it up to modern international standards, allowing us to operate international flights from the airport to previously cut-off regions,” he said.
Introducing Korongo Airlines represents a new way of travel to the region. The company said it would develop its routes and flight frequencies in three phases during the year, with the first phase entailing eight weekly flights between Lubumbashi and the DRC’s capital Kinshasa, and two weekly connections from Lubumbashi to Johannesburg.
This is in addition to Brussels Airlines operating a three-times-a-week service from Lubumbashi to Brussels.
Other destinations to be connected in future development phases include Kolwezi, in the south of the DRC where there is a significant demand for the service from mine operators, Lilongwe in Malawi, Lusaka in Zambia and Entebbe in Uganda.
The airline would introduce business-class travel options from Lubumbashi, as well as snacks on short-distance flights, and hot meals on any flights longer than two hours.
Tickets would also be available electronically for the first time in the DRC, while passengers could choose to buy fully flexible, semiflexible or low-cost tickets, depending on individual needs.
The airline would also target international ticket booking systems such as the Galileo and Amadeus ticketing networks to enable customers to book tickets from anywhere in the world.
Korongo Airlines would also provide air-freight capacity in the region.
The airline is a joint venture between Brussels Airlines, which owns a 40% interest and is supplying the leased Boeing 737-300 and a BAE 146-200 aircraft, civil engineering and mining services group George Arthur Forrest, which holds 39.6% interest, and DRC investors.
The aircraft were recently refitted and modernised and underwent a ‘tropicalisation’ process to accustom the aircraft components to the hot and humid climate of the region.