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The Future Of Camair-Co Is Bright – GM 

By Joe Dinga Pefok — The General Manager of Cameroon Airlines Corporation, Camair-Co, Alex Van Elk, has said, despite initial difficulties the young State-owned company faced at the beginning of its operation, indications show that the future of the Company is bright. He made this observation at a press conference organised in Douala on March 21, 2012, as part of activities to mark the first anniversary of Camair-Co. 

The airline boss was assisted at the press conference by the Deputy General Manager, Emmanuel Mbozo’o Ndo, the Commercial Director, David Fordham, the Director of Human Resources, Marthe Mfout, and the Director of Administration and Finance, Magloire Pepin Mougnol.

In a preliminary presentation, which was an evaluation of Camair-Co in its first year, Van Elk recalled that the airline took off with its inaugural flight on March 28, 2011. “There were people who did not expect Camair-Co to take off. It took off. We are now one year old,” he rejoiced.

He expressed thanks to Government for its strong support to the young national carrier. The CEO admitted that the situation for the young airline company was quite difficult at the beginning. He added that some assumptions were also made in the planning, but that the realities in the field turned out to be different.

According to him, when the business plan for Camair-Co was being drawn up, for example, the thinking was that Cameroonian travellers will massively come knocking on the door of their new national carrier. However, he said, Cameroonians instead adopted a wait-and-see attitude. As a result, the airline had very few passengers in the beginning.

Quality Service, Competitive Price 

On the other, the Camair-Co CEO noted that several priorities, which the management team set out for the Company at the beginning, started paying off early enough. The priorities, which are high quality service and safety, have been attracting an increasing number of passengers to Camair-Co, which currently has three aircrafts: one Boeing 767 and two Boeings 737. Van Elk disclosed that from March 28 –December 31, 2011, Camair-Co transported a total of 109.039 passengers. “Seventy-two percent of customers rate our service as good,” he said.

As for the prices of Camair-Co tickets, the CEO said: “Our price level for tickets, taking into considering our high standard, is comparatively low. We will continue to try to make it lower. In fact, we offer high quality service for a very competitive price”. As for external destinations, Camair-Co currently flies to Paris and Lyon in France, as well as to Cotonou, Libreville, Djamena, Malabo, Brazzaville and Kinshasha.

As for the Lagos destination which Camair-Co announced last year, Van Elk said management later decided to suspend the launching. This, he explained, was because there were already as many as four Nigerian airline companies operating on the Douala-Lagos route. He, however, said management might review the decision on the Lagos destination. “Meanwhile, we are working on introducing other new destinations”, Van Elk said.    

Safety Of Passengers

On the aspect of safety, which is one of the Company’s top priorities, Van Elk said: “We believe in the safety of passengers. We are following all the international rules. Though Camair-Co is a very young Company, we are proud with the fact that we are one of the few African airline companies that is not blacklisted in Europe. We can fly anywhere in Europe”.

He said this is because, from the very beginning, Camair-Co focussed not only to start operation, “but implemented an operation whose roots are embedded in safety and quality with international standards, fully EASA, ICAO and CCAA compliant”.

Van Elk stated that a great team worked tirelessly and obtained Airlines Operation Certificate- AOC, acquired traffics right, maintenance, trained flight crew, as well as performing audits and trainings of the personnel.

“Today, Camair-Co conforms with requirements related to Safety Management, Emergency Responses Management, Quality Assurance, Flight Safety and Data Monitoring, and relevant manuals approved by the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority-CCAA. We are now following up with the implementation and evaluation of our operations to boost and champion the African skies,” he said.           

Fulfilling The Mission

In spite of their initial difficulties, Van Elk said Camair-Co maintained the spirit of its vision, which is to be “the airline of choice for Cameroonians and international travellers, by offering safety, reliability and connectivity accompanied by unwavering service quality, competitive pricing and sustained profitability”. Van Elk stressed the commitment of management to keep Camair-Co focussed on its mission and vision.  

State Subvention

The airline management disclosed that Government granted the Company FCFA 32 billion to prepare the take off phase. This was in line with the business plan that was presented for the Company. Management explained that the money went for the leasing of planes and the hiring and training of personnel, among others.

It was also disclosed that Camair-Co, during its first year of existence, realised a revenue of FCFA 15 billion, which was also spent at the takeoff phase of the project. The management team stressed that no airline company in the world, makes profit within the first few years of its existence. According to Camair-Co management, they indicated in the business plan sent to Government that the company will start making profit in 2014. 

Bad Image Of Defunct Camair

The Camair-Co management explained that the Company’s business plan gave room for readjustments to unforeseen situations. It was disclosed that one of the unforeseen situations, which has so much affected Camair-Co, is the bad image that the defunct Cameroon Airlines, Camair, left behind as an unreliable debtor.

It was disclosed, for example, that when Camair-Co went to negotiate for the leasing of planes, all leasing companies with good Boeing aircrafts insisted on the payment of a two-year caution for each plane. The management team thus explained that the rumour being propagated by some media organs about a deficit suffered by Camair-Co is, in reality, not a deficit as such, as it is the money that is being held as caution for the two planes.

Meanwhile, Van Elk assured that: “We are very much aware of the fact that we are using State money, and everything is being done to ensure that the least franc is spent wisely”. He said the management team tenaciously hold to the values of integrity, transparency and prudence in financial management.

Statistics released at the press conference on recruitment at Camair-Co show that 398 Cameroonians are currently employed as permanent workers in the company. From the statistics, it is evident that Camair-Co employed Cameroonians of varied regions of the country.             

First Published in The Post print edition (No. 1330)

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