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Thu 29 Jul 2010 12:39 AM

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Emirates to fly to Dakar amid plans for regional hub

Carrier is opening the route to service Middle East and Asia bound passengers.

Emirates to fly to Dakar amid plans for regional hub
REGIONAL HUB: Emirates Airlines has said that it will begin flights to Senegals capital, Dakar, amid plans to develop the country as a regional transport hub. (Getty Images)

Emirates, the biggest Arab airline, said it will begin flights to the Senegalese capital of Dakar on Sept 1, amid plans to develop the West African country as a regional transport hub.

The Dubai based carrier is opening the route to service Middle East and Asia bound passengers transferring from regional flights, Nigel Page, senior vice president for Africa and the Americas, said in an interview today in Dakar.

The introduction of flights comes as Senegal Airlines, a closely held carrier, plans to start flying to West African capitals by the end of this year, said Ibrahima Diong, Senegal’s managing director of air transport.

Page said: “What we’re hoping is that Senegal Airlines will provide a feeder market for us through Dakar to connect with various markets like Conakry, Nouakchott, Bamako and places like that."

Dakar’s main airport, situated on the western tip of Africa, handles 2.5 million passenger seats annually, 43 percent more than its nearest competitor in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, the World Bank said in a July 23 report.

Senegal is building a $460 million, 30 gate airport 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside of Dakar, according to the project’s website.

When finished, the Blaise Diagne International Airport will handle an initial 3 million passenger seats per year, with a goal of reaching 5 million by 2025, according to the website.

At a ceremony to mark the publication of the World Bank report last week, Clemencia de Mastle, an infrastructural diagnosis coordinator, said: “Senegal is an emerging hub for air transportation in West Africa, with great international connectivity, better quality standards and a higher volume of international traffic."

She added: “There, however, is a potential for an inter regional market that has yet to be fully developed.”

Senegal Airlines is being reconstituted from state owned Air Senegal International, which collapsed last year. To develop the regional market, the carrier intends to sign accords with other airlines in the region, Diong said.

Page said: “The collapse of the previous national carrier has left a bit of hole here, and hopefully a new airline will help fill that hole."

Emirates Airlines, which Diong said is the only carrier connecting Dakar and the Middle East, shares the hub with airlines including Atlanta based Delta Air Lines and Johannesburg based South African Airways.

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