Air Transport World

To defeat a dollar dearth. (African airlines trying to reduce maintenance costs)

CAIRO--Members of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) spend 15% of their revenue--$15 million--in maintenance per year, most of it outside the African continent, Capt. Mohamed Ahmed, secretary general of the association, told the African Airlines/AFRAA conference here. He said that in percentage terms, AFRAA members spend 50% more than airlines in Europe and the U.S. on maintenance, which means that the high cost certainly has a negative effect on the balance sheets.

The same view was expressed by Ranjit Appa, technical director and special adviser to the chairman of Air Mauritius. Pointing out that maintenance is a major cost item for all airlines and can vary by 15-20% of direct operating costs, he said the level of such cost is a vital concern for African carriers, which may not have vast amounts of foreign exchange to offset chiefly dollar-dominated maintenance costs.

He suggested that if African airlines can develop a strategy for (a) reducing maintenance costs and (b) reducing their foreign-exchange exposure, while at the same time maintaining or enhancing their revenue-earning ability, a significant step forward will be achieved.

Like other speakers at the conference, Appa pointed out than if African carriers can accomplish maintenance on a regional basis, substantial savings inevitably will be made. However, when each region is examined on a standalone basis and applying the economic throughput for airframe, engines and components, insufficient hours are generated to support such a facility. However, the aggregate demand of all African regions would provide the necessary economic throughput.

Noting that AFRAA has had only limited success in having its proposals for designating specific aircraft types to specific maintenance centers, Appa said that economic and political instability has resulted in downgrading the capacity of some centers. …

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