A new airline was launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, a bid to revolutionise air transport within the vast country where flights are currently operated only by the UN and small carriers blacklisted by the EU.
Two Airbus jets belonging to Congo Airways left the capital Kinshasa’s Ndjili international airport after a ceremony attended by President Joseph Kabila.
The first flight left at 10:57 bound for the eastern town of Goma via the country’s third city of Kisangani.
The second departed three minutes later for southeastern Lubumbashi, the country’s second city.
“The launch of Congo Airways is the symbol of the economic and financial independence of the DRC,” Transport Minister Justin Kalumba said in a speech.
The head of Congo Airways, Claude Kirongozi, said the air transport sector “has been marginalised for a long time, with as a consequence the blacklisting of all the air transport companies operating in Congo.”
He gave no date for the launch of commercial services. But last month, after the airline received the two A320 Airbus aircraft, a source close to Congo Airways said that this could take place “around mid-October.”
Internal air transport in the immense country—half the size of the European Union—is currently operated largely by the United Nations, chiefly for its own use or for humanitarian purposes.
The small local airlines that do operate are all on an EU blacklist, which means that they cannot fly into EU airspace.
Air France is assisting in the development of the new airline.
Air transport infrastructure is also being overhauled in the country, one of the least developed in the world and where air accidents occur frequently due to ageing fleets, lack of security controls and poor weather conditions.
Congo Airways will initially operate services to eight towns and cities, and this will be expanded to 14 after three years..