#Burundi wants to join the national airline bandwagon too, but …


(Posted 29th December 2020)

Is it envy or is it simply a complete lack of a reality check one wonders when hearing that the Burundi government – broke as they are – is setting eyes on the revival of a national airline which in the estimate of aviation pundits would cost the tiny East African country anywhere between 200 and 300 million US Dollars to start with, medium to long term losses not included.


We last heard of such plans in 2011, when the government in Bujumbura made noise about ordering several Chinese built MA60 turboprop aircraft but these plans, like much else in Burundi at the time, all came to naught.


Initially formed in 1971 as Société de Transports Aériens du Burundi was the airline in 1975 renamed into Air Burundi, serving – at the time of halting operations in 2009, just two destinations, Entebbe and Kigali. The airline had ceased operations already at an earlier time in 2007 but relaunched some time in 2008 once again before finally facing a permanent operations halt.

To give readers some comparative figures, Uganda in July 2018 ordered 4 CRJ900 dual cabin aircraft, at 2017 list prices of some 46.5 million US Dollars each and in April 2019 ordered two Airbus A330-800Neo, at 2018 list prices of 259.9 million US Dollars.
It is believed that for both orders Uganda got preferential pricing from the two manufacturers but nevertheless will the price tag have come close to 700 million US Dollars.
Add to that operating expenses, for the start up period prior to launching flights and the start up expenses while launching flights to a planned 12 plus African destinations and the bill will be rising accordingly.

Even if Burundi opts for the less than desirable Chinese made MA60’s again, at a cost of around 22 million US Dollars each, or goes for the more proven ATR70 series at a cost of 26 plus million US Dollars or the alternative Dash 8-400 at 32 plus million US Dollars – and taking into account an order of at least 3 such aircraft to be able to fly a regional network – the overall cost will have to extract funds from an already overstretched budget to the tune of up to 100 million US Dollars, start up expenses included.

Should the Burundians opt for preowned older aircraft, cheaper to acquire but much more expensive to operate and maintain, the ultimate cost might be the same yet combined with a greater risk of technical problems also hand the new airline a headache from day one.

If one can draw any conclusion from such plans, it is that talk is cheap and in times of national crisis – the COVID19 pandemic in Burundi is biting harder and harder and is draining the national budget beyond expectations – giving the population something to hang on to is a proven political ploy.

As always in aviation, time will tell and as and as and when will ATCNews be on the spot reporting about progress or failure.

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