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Camair-Co Managers Admit Underperformance 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

— Officials at Cameroon’s lone national carrier Cameroon Airlines Corporation, CAMAIR Co, have acknowledged the skies are still too hazy for the company to attain desired performance results. They also admitted committing several managerial blunders at a March 21 news conference in Douala.

A couple of reporters in attendance opined the outing was nothing less than a masked public confession of decision-making slips.  It came on the back of an ongoing shelling of managers of the state-owned company by a fraction of the local media. 

In recent weeks, a handful of mostly second-rate newspapers have barraged the company managers with rebuke over the recruitment of foreign stewards, segregation in recruitment of senior managers and shady sidelining of competent postulants, auditing errands handed a Dubai-based firm, repeated flight delays and cancellation, the selection of uneconomical destinations, financial deficits currently dangling around 20 billion FCFA, etc.

“Of course when you work in this part of the world, there’re challenges.  Most of the time, supplies want upfront payments.  They you need to find competent people and giving them the right training to use the sophisticated systems we have,” CAMAIR Co’s Dutchman managing Director, Alex Van Elk acknowledged.

He added that CAMAIR Co was hatched on the ruins of the defunct Cameroon Airlines, CAMAIR, which abruptly dropped from the skies six years [owing largely to disastrous management].  “Six years in the aviation world is a revolution.  We now have totally computerized systems for crews, for maintenance and our people need to be trained to work with that,” he added.  The bulk of CAMAIR Co staffers were called up from the expired CAMAIR.

Emmanuel Mbozo’o, the company’s deputy managing director revealed that the inability to fill up seats on several destinations has motivated a decision to temporarily halt flights to Bangui, in the Central African Republic for example.  According to him, flight personnel are increasingly being constituted by nationals.  He added that the company is finalizing the recruitment of some 24 Cameroonian pilots proposed jobs. 

Elsewhere, he indicated that renting aircraft is proving to be increasingly tedious.  But Van Elk made several attempts at sounding hopeful. According to him, in just one year of existence since March 2011, and operating two aircraft; the Boeing 767 [nicknamed the Dja] and a 737 on national, regional and intercontinental routes, CAMAIR Co has pulled in 15 billion FCFA in gains. 

The government placed 32 billion FCFA worth of taxpayers’ money to enable the takeoff of CAMAIR Co last year.  Critics say the declared profit is lackluster and have expressed fears CAMAIR Co may perish in similar fashion as its predecessor.  But Van Elk and his collaborators remain adamantly optimistic about breaking even in the near future.

“We’re very competitive; not only for prices but also for the service we provide.  The aircraft we have are very new.  Nobody can match our fares to Europe.  We’re cheaper in price but better in service,” he stated.  And critics say that’s just where another problem may be lurking – profitability.  Many argue it is irrational to offer cheaper flights to Lyon [and not Paris] in France and expect to stay afloat very long. 

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