At the Crossroads of the World: Cabo Verde Airlines Aims to Turn Cape Verde into Intercontinental Hub
By: Joao Machado
While not many may know of the Cape Verde Islands, that may soon change with Cabo Verde Airlines seeking to re-enter the spotlight. Under new management, the airline is the flag carrier of Cape Verde, an archipelago of islands in the middle of the Atlantic with a strategic geographic location between the Americas, Africa and Europe.
The geographic condition of the airline called the attention of the Icelandair Group, which operates under a similar circumstance with its main carrier Icelandair. In 2017, the two entered into an agreement in which they both would manage the state-owned airline Transportes Aéreos de Cabo Verde (TACV), later Cabo Verde Airlines. In March, the Loftleidir Cabo Verde – of which 70 percent is owned by the Loftleidir Icelandic ehf, an Icelandic charter airline owned by the Icelandair Group, and 30 percent by Icelandic investors – bought 51 percent of the airline.
The conditions of the airline were poor during state administration with TACV having considerable losses and debt. Since the takeover, though, efforts were turned to a complete restructuring, which aims to the creation of a hub at Ilha do Sal Airport, as well as the creation of a stopover program in Cape Verde similar to Icelandir's stopover program.
Though the airline may have had some huge problems since then, like the cancellation of flights due to the lack of aircraft, it seems to be on an expansion path now. The current fleet is composed of three 757-200s, the same type as Icelandair uses as its workhouse. The third 757, with a new corporate identity, was received at the end of May.
While Cabo Verde Airlines still has two major bases, Praia and Ilha do Sal, the airline wants to concentrate operations in Ilha do Sal in order to provide better connectivity for the passengers. Currently, the airline’s destinations include such cities as Fortaleza, Recife, Brazil, Lisbon, Paris and Milan.
The airline can count with the major know-how of Icelandair, who has already turned Iceland, a small country in the North Atlantic, into a major hub between North America and Europe, even boosting the local tourism. That’s exactly the plan for Cabo Verde Airlines, as its new chief executive officer, Jens Bjarnason, has told Brazilian media.
“Our goal is to keep growing in a sustainable way, maintaining Icelandair’s successful business model,” Bjarnason said.
“Cape Verde is in the air routes crossing of four continents, in which the trip time is almost equal to a nonstop since the additional time by transiting in Ilha do Sal is only one hour”, Cabo Verde Airline’s Commercial and Marketing Vice-President, Raúl Andrade, said in an email to AirlineGeeks. “Cabo Verde Airlines has now a new mission, which is to connect these four continents”.
Regarding flights to the United States, Andrade said by mid-June the airline will start selling tickets between Washington and Ilha do Sal, a service set to start by the end of the year. For now, though, U.S. operations will be restricted to Boston and Washington, according to Andrade.
A major question about the growth is related to the connectivity of the hub. According to Andrade, “the hub-and-spoke process develops with increments in connectivity in terms of the route plan. The business plan for the next 5 years forecasts the creation of at least two new destinations per year until 2023.”
To start up the hub, a big step forward is set for the end of this year. According to another Panrotas report, two more 757s will have arrived by the end of the year. Besides the three weekly operations to Washington, Cabo Verde Airlines also plans to connect Ilha do Sal to Lagos, Nigeria, and Luanda, Angola, as well as grow existing service to Portugal and Brazil.