Astral expands intra-Africa air cargo network

By Damian Brett

Astral Aviation has expanded its intra-African network to meet capacity shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Nairobi-headquartered airline said that from May 25 it would add scheduled weekly flights to Lilongwe in Malawi, Lusaka in Zambia and Kismayo and Bosaso in Somalia.

This will increase the total number of destinations it serves on scheduled services to 13.

Chief executive Sanjeev Gadhia said that other countries it flies to include: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Eritrea, Burundi, Madagascar, Djibouti, Yemen and Sudan.

The carrier said that since the coronavirus outbreak, many passenger flights to Africa had been dropped — hitting bellyhold cargo capacity — while there is also limited freighter capacity.

During the pandemic, Astral has operated a number of charter flights for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical items to various African countries, which have been cut off from the rest of the world, according to Anthony Mwangi, charter manager of Astral Aviation.

Astral Aviation operations director Michael Mutahi said there have been a number of operational challenges relating to crew quarantine restrictions and turn-around at certain airports, however Astral has managed to ensure that its flights continue to operate safely and within the Covid-19 guidelines of the countries that it operates to.

Astral also operates a fleet of B747-400F transporting perishables cargo from its Nairobi hub to Doncaster and Liege, with Network Airline Services, and a fleet of regional freighters, which it operates to over 50 destinations in Africa.

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