Air Senegal International(ASI) won the prestigious African Airline of the Year Award in 2003. The airline has continued to expand its routes, and entered into code share agreements with South African Airlines to serve New York and Johannesburg. Stephen Williams interviewed Zouheir El Aoufir, the director general of ASI, at the airline's headquarters in Dakar.
AFRICAN BUSINESS: When you last spoke to African Business (see November 2002 issue) you outlined Air Senegal International's ambitious business plan. Have you met all your projected targets?
ZOUHEIR EL AOUFIR: In terms of traffic targets, we had 125,000 passengers in 2001, and we were forecasting 350,000 in 2003. Actually, we carried more than 355,000 last year. So in terms of traffic that's OK. In terms of revenue we exceeded our forecast. We had anticipated revenues of about $80m in 2003, but we achieved just short of $100m. As for our fleet size, in 2001 we had just two aircraft although we leased a third for a short period. We returned that aircraft and leased two new generation Boeing 737s so today we operate four aircraft, three Boeings and one Bombardier Dash 8, but by leasing these new 737s we were able to serve new destinations. We increased our African regional services, and started a daily service to Paris which we have now increased to two daily flights. What ASI has proved is that in such a tough business environment, and in such a difficult industry as aviation, an airline that was formed through south-south co-operation--between Royal Air Maroc (RAM), which owns 51% of the company and the government of Senegal which owns the remaining 49%--can create a successful product. We can do it using our own experience, using the know-how we have here in Africa and using the good relations we have with the airlines of the North.
AFRICAN BUSINESS: The face of any airline is represented by its ground staff and cabin crew. Anyone who flies ASI will notice that your people are very professional. Do you train your staff within the company?
ZOUHEIR EL AOUFIR: Well, this is one of our major competitive advantages, and from the outset we have considered the quality of our personnel to be of primary importance. We are trying to avoid all the errors made by other airlines. All applicants are sent to our parent company, RAM, to their staff training facility in Casablanca to complete a 14 week basic training course. Trainees complete their training with 60...