Astral Aviation has turned to Aquila Air Capital, a specialty finance platform focused on commercial aerospace, with the two companies signing an operating lease for three Boeing 757-200F freighter aircraft as the cargo airline tries to keep up with the increase in cargo demand.
SkyExec Capital Jets acted as arranger and will service the lease during the term. The Aircraft are expected to be delivered to Astral starting in November 2021, upon completion of their scheduled maintenance.
“We are delighted to bring on Astral Airlines as a customer. At Aquila, we are uniquely focused on providing cost effective and flexible solutions for our customers to manage through these unprecedented times. We look forward to this being the beginning to a long-term relationship with Astral to help facilitate their future growth,” said Al Wood, CEO Aquila Air Capital.
Bridging the gap
The fleet expansion will add about 90 tonnes of cargo capacity to its network of six owned and leased aircraft upon arrival and is expected to take over and increase the frequency in Nairobi to Johannesburg route which it currently serves at 2X per week and served with the B767F and the Nairobi – Dubai – Hong Kong scheduled service which was launched in early July this year also served with the B767-F.
“We are excited to enter into a lease agreement for three B757-200F aircraft from Aquila Air Capital and SkyExec Capital Jets. The aircraft will take over the Nairobi – Johannesburg and Nairobi – Dubai scheduled service with increased frequency for our clients in addition to new scheduled routes to and within Africa and Middle East in 2022.”
“It will also offer point-to-point solutions for COVID-19 vaccines (from India / UAE to Africa) in addition to E-commerce shipments to new markets,” said Astral CEO, Sanjeev Gadhia. The agreement marks a new partnership with the US lessor.
“The B757-200F will complement the Astral fleet with new and efficient options to and within its existing scheduled and charter freighter network, which comprises of over 50 destinations in Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia,” added Astral’s Commercial Director in UAE, Mr. Satvir Kalsi.
“With this agreement, Astral Aviation will become the largest B757F operator in Africa and Middle East, in addition to being the only B767F operator in the region,” also noted Michael Mutahi Astral COO.
“The B757F is a fuel-efficient, mid-range and narrow-body freighter, with a payload of up to 30 tons and a range of 5 hours, which makes it a perfect freighter for the African, Middle East & South East Asia region.”
Astral Aviation on a growth trajectory
Sanjeev Gadhia has been very vocal on the level of growth in Astral Aviation with the CEO noting earlier in July this year that the suspension of many passenger services since the COVID-19 crisis began has resulted in an upsurge in demand for cargo flights, helping the Kenya-based airline to record the best annual results in its 20-year history during 2020.
Moreover, air cargo market in Africa is primed for a “very high level of growth” over the coming years following the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and new trade flows that have emerged since the onset of the pandemic, said Sanjeev speaking in the Takeoff Cargo.
Worth noting is that 70% of the cargo airline’s expansion would be inter-Africa according to Sanjeev Gandhia.