African Open Sky: The New Face of African Aviation

CEO: Max O Cisse

With a reputation for going the extra mile, African Open Sky has set itself apart as the leading trip support company in Africa. With an expansion plan for Africa and the Middle East, the company is poised for even greater success in the years to come.

When the lid was blown open on the potential of the African aviation industry and the rise of indigenous companies, it was only a matter of time before the cracks began to show. Bad strategy and mismanagement led to the liquidation of many state-owned airline operators. Spiralling operating costs, a series of deadly yet avoidable accidents, and a drop in foreign investment threatened to kill the market before it even got off the ground. It was time for drastic measures and visionary leaders to step in, and African Open Sky (AOS) did just that.

As true as the name is, the company has set out to ensure that the African skies stay open for business by providing customer satisfaction, ease of operations, reduced costs, and accountability. The private company based in Côte d’Ivoire has had phenomenal success in an industry many had abandoned and many yet still question. Started in 2009, the company now operates its own offices in 25 African countries and one in the United Arab Emirates. AOS has provided breakthrough services all across the African continent and has itself known far beyond its home markets, winning several European and global awards in 2015, 2016, and 2017, including the Aviation Awards Best Pan-African Aviation Services Provider Africa 2018.

AOS is the largest flight support company in Africa, offering services to governmental, commercial, corporate, and private operators. Its operations cover passenger and cargo ground-handling services such as transportation, hotel accommodation, catering, refuelling, maintenance, aircraft security, flight planning, and other activities from more than fifty offices and agents across the continent. The company is licensed to operate in every country where its maintains a presence, and has direct relationships with local authorities – AOS does not use third-party agencies. This simplifies operations and significantly reduces costs. This approach of being locally certified has revolutionised the market and has made AOS fully accountable – legally and otherwise – to local authorities and, as such, enabled the company to expand at a phenomenal rate. Whilst other African flight support operators saw a 30% growth in traffic last year, AOS obtained 45%.

Winning Strategy

African Open Sky CEO Max O Cisse was named Best Aviation CEO Africa 2018 due to his exemplary leadership and innovative approach to simplifying international travel. His secret has been establishing direct links with all civil aviation authorities (CAA) in Africa. Having accepted direct responsibility and control of all its operations for clients, local authorities have come to rely on this hands-on approach and some have given AOS exclusive contractual rights. Mr Cisse believes this has been the reason for the company’s success. As such, AOS is able to procure permits within a short period of time, even in countries with complex regulatory policies. AOS is not seen as an Ivorian company, but as a local brand with an international presence.

Another primary reason for the company’s success is its ability to provide the basic and crucial necessities at unbeatable prices. Fuel supply has been one of the major services offered from AOS’ inception, and so the company ensures it has the lowest prices available. This is particularly important given rampant fuel supply problems in many countries – oil producing and non-oil producing alike. Lack of affordable and consistent fuel supply has been one of the reasons why local travel remains so expensive in Africa, significantly higher than in Europe, where low-cost airlines thrive. But with AOS’s strong local connections, they are able to reduce some of those costs.

As though this wasn’t enough, African Open Sky wants to open an office in every African country and expand its presence in the Middle East. Ambitious and necessary, this plan will seek to further increase the company’s edge over its competition and more importantly, cut costs for customers. By going over and beyond for its clients, AOS has not only improved the aviation industry, but the economy as a whole. The business and investment opportunities in Africa are growing by the day, which makes the need for smoother aviation services more pressing.

African Open Sky Ground Handling Staff in DIAP

Changing Dynamics

The aviation industry in Africa has a long way to go to before it can reach its full potential. Right now, the GDP realised from the sector is $80 billion, with air passenger traffic of under 130 million. The industry is growing at 4.5% per year, all of which is considerably below expectations. It is the least performing region globally after Latin America. It aims to share in the success of the nearby Middle Eastern market, but a myriad of problems would need to be addressed.

The major issues for the region include poor airline infrastructure, fuel duties, and over-regulation. A vast majority of the airports is unable to cater to the growing middle-class in Africa and increased tourism, particularly in East and Southern Africa. The number of airports/airfields is also a problem. Fuel duties and taxes all but negate the profits of airline operators. Combine that with routine problems such as the general inefficiencies of the aviation authorities, airlines, and their partners and you have an industry in need of a transformative upgrade.

African Open Skies has is committed to doing business the only way it knows how to: with class. AOS has paced its rivals by being consistent in its service deliveries, with a very fast turn-around despite the challenges of the industry. Nothing is left to the last minute. The operations of the district offices are carefully monitored to maintain a consistent performance in all locations. The effect is a glowing report from its growing stable of loyal customers.

The aviation market is currently over-regulated, with government agencies trying to protect local airlines by restricting competition. This has led to higher than expected travel costs in most parts of the continent. With its close links to local CAAs, AOS has developed a model for other companies to follow. It stands in support of not just its own local aviation industry, but that of the continent. This has given it an acceptability standard rarely afforded to foreign operators.

Over the next two decades, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that Africa’s aviation industry will be one of the fastest-growing in the world, if not the fastest. It is clear that AOS plans to be a major part of that growth and given all indications, it most certainly will be. A lot of work needs to be put in to ensure it all goes according to plan, but CEO Cisse and African Open Sky remain fully committed.

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